ISSUE 51
May 2003
 
 
   
    Nigeria: Court Voids New Anti-Corruption Law
Kenya: Good Governance and Economic Recovery
   
    Malaysia: Good Governance Adds 10-50% to a Company's Worth
Malaysia: Mahathir to Civil Servants: No 5-Day Week for Now
Brunei: Brunei Moves Closer to Building e-Government
Brunei: Public Servants Told To Further Improve Services
   
    EU: Declaration on e-Governance in the EU and SE Europe
UK: The Real Public Services Debate
UK: British PM Faces Labour Revolt Over Health Care Reforms
Italy: Public Administration Forum: Berlusconi, We Aim to Modernise State
Slovakia: Government Outlines Anti-corruption Tmetable
EU: 'E-Government: Paving the Way to 2010', Valencia, Spain
Italy: Public Aministration Still To Comply with Privacy Law
   
    Israel: Public Administration Grew by 1,500 Employees in Q1
   
    USA: White House, Pentagon Eye Basing Pay Boosts on Merit
Canada: Public Service Bill Needs Major Changes: Union
USA: Local Government Addresses Needs of a Diverse Community
   
    UN Says It Will Root Out Fraud and Corruption
G8 Summit in Evian - Reporters Without Borders says "Good Governance" Needs a Free Press
 
   
    Kenya: New Report On Corruption in Courts Ready
Nigeria: Rejecting the Collective Guilt of Corruption
Ghana: Ghana's Anti-corruption Crusade
Cameroons: Corruption: PM Wants Fight Strategies Reinforced
Ghana: Accra's Anti-Corruption Crusade
Ethiopia: Experts Discuss Information, Good Governance
South Africa: Governance As Per Female Anatomy
Africa: Governance in Africa Under Reflection - Dr. Salih Outlines Challenges
South Africa: New Chairman Pledges to Get Sage Governance in Line
   
    Malaysia: Let Lawyers Have Say on Ethics Code
Thailand: Confidence Up But So Is Corruption, Says Survey
Kazakhstan: International Group to Help CIS Fight Corruption
Kazakhstan: Main Risk for Investment in Kazakhstan Is Corruption - Human Rights Activist
Korea: Korean Firms Rank Second in Asian Governance Poll
India: ACB Plans Music Video on Corruption
Korea: Prosecutors Face Probe Over Corruption
Bangladesh: Bangladesh Tackles Corruption
India: Can Crooks Improve Governance?
Pakistan: Prime Minister's Vision Of Good Governance
Bangladesh: Bangladesh Donors Tie Aid to Good Governance
Korea: [Anti-Corruption Conference] Justice Minister Confident of Forum's Success
PNG: Media Council Urges Action Against Corruption
Singapore: Corruption in Asia Costs Up To 1/6 of GDP
South Korea: Anti-corruption Conference Opens
Philippines: Asian Nations' Growth Stunted by Corruption
   
    Italy: Stanca Presents New Public Administration "Yellow Pages" Online
Bulgaria: Government Official Claims There Is No Corruption in Bulgaria's Privatization
Bulgaria: Main Sectors to Breed Corruption in Bulgaria Named
   
    UAE: Executive Training Module Launched on Creating a High Performance Government
   
    USA: Ehrlich Order Targets State Corruption
USA: Senate Group Approves $20 Billion Bill to Aid Local Governments
Chile: Chile's Lagos Tries to Heal Corruption Wounds
USA: Charters an Option for Local Control
   
    UN Advocating for E-governance
4 to Get Awards for Corruption Fight
 
   
    Tanzania: Civil Servants Mark May Day Without Salaries
AU: African Ministers to Plan Public Service Reform
Kenya: Civil Servants Given 90 Days to Declare Wealth
Zimbabwe: Public Service Association Pressing for $150 000 Minimum Salary Level
Cameroon: Public Service Workers Celebrate For the First Time
Zimbabwe: Transport Allowance for Civil Servants Hiked
Kenya: Government to Ensure Efficiency in Public Service
Africa: Public Service Ministers Adopt Programme At Pan African Conference
Botswana: Civil Servants Fears Over De Villiers Commission
Nigeria: Be Dedicated, Council Boss Charges Civil Servants
Nigeria: Lagos Plans Cheaper Houses for Civil Servants
Kenya: Civil Service to Fix Pay on Performance
Kenya: Civil Servants Have One Month to Declare Wealth
Malawi: Civil Servants' Pay Hike Meet Delayed
South Africa: Hundreds of Dismissed Civil Servants to Be Prosecuted
Kenya: PS Spells Out Narc Government Plan to Fight Corruption
Kenya: Civil Service to Fix Pay On Performance
   
    India: Professionals Are Toppers in Civil Services Examinations
Nauru: Nauruan Public Servants Receive First Pay for Months
Malaysia: Cash Hails PM's Call to Civil Servants on Pay Hike
China: Sichuan Province Sends 1.7 million Civil Servants for Extra Training
India: Anandhakumar Tops Successful Civil Services Candidates from TN
Malaysia: Competency Evaluation for Sabah Civil Servants by November
Sri Lanka: Interim Order on NWP, Public Service Commission: Disrobed Teachers to Continue for Time Being
New Zealand: Talks Loom on Public Service Deals
Australia: Public Servants Drain the Coffers
India: Over 2000 Taking Civil Service Exam Today
India: UT to Play Safe for Civil Services Examination
Indonesia: Idle Civil Servants Face Sacking
Philippines: CSC Sets Civil Service Exams
China: New Civil Service Course in Hong Kong on Mainland Systems to Be Launched
Korea: Public Servants to Be Allowed to Form Union
Brunei: Civil Servants Urged To Be More Courteous
Australia: WA Government to Axe 770 Public Service Jobs
Singapore: Civil Service Response to NWC Recommendations
Singapore: Civil Service Pay Cut Shows What Needs To Be Done, Say DPMs
Singapore: Pay Cut For Ministers, Top Civil Servants
Korea: Bill Grants Civil Servants Labor Union
Malaysia: Civil Servants Get Higher Hotel Allowances
Maldives: Guidelines in Employing Minors in Public Service Announced
   
    UK: Public Service Broadcasts Hit
UK: Public Service Hiccups
Netherlands: Government to Lay Off 20,000 Public Servants
UK: Civil Servants Accuse Ministers of Piling on Tasks and Pressure
Europe: Microsoft Grasps at Public Sector
UK: Treasury Blames Civil Servants for Pensions Shortfall Blunder
France: French Civil Servants March Over Pension Reform
UK: Warning Over Public Service Reforms
UK: CBI Slams 'Snail's Pace' Public Service Reform
France: French Civil Servants March Over Pension Reform
UK: Public Service Reform Could Fail, Warns Watchdog
   
    Iraq: Iraqi Civil Servants Fill in Job Forms and Worry Amid the Uncertainty
Israel: Netanyahu Withdraws Lock-out Threat Against Civil Servants
Iraq: US Hands Out Emergency Cash to Iraq Civil Servants
Iraq: Public services returning to Baghdad
Egypt: Former Egyptian Finance Minister Sentenced Over Corruption
Iraq: Iraqi Civil Servants Get First Wages in Weeks
   
    USA: Devotion to Public Service Leads to Scholarship
USA: How the K.G. Public Service Authority Was Established
USA: Congress Begins DoD Civil Service Overhaul Debate
USA: House Panel Launches Civil Service Overhaul
USA: Public Service Recognition Week Celebrated in D.C.
Barbados: Thompson: Criticism a Part of Public Service
USA: Times Earns Public Service Award for Coverage of Flawed Administrator Search
USA: NASA Head Urges Graduates to Go into Public Service
USA: Nancy Reagan Presented Navy's Distinguished Public Service Award
USA: City Opposes Bill to Boost Civil Service Scores for Sept. 11 Siblings
USA: Public Comments at Council Hearings Focus on Corruption
USA: Civil Service Reform In a Crossfire
Canada: Public Service Alliance of Canada - Young Workers Demand Respect
USA: Larson Urges CCSU Grads to Take Up Public Service
USA: Public Administration Group Gives Three Awards
 
   
    South Africa: Effective, Efficient Public Service Delivery a Challenge for Africa
Nigeria: Civil Servants Get Reprieve On Transportation
   
    India: Commerce Ministry Tops in E-governance, IT Benefits
India: Munda Logs into E-governance
India: e-Governance Helps Local Languages Stride in IT Industry
India: ET Seminar on E-governance from May 27
India: E-government Need Not Be Monopoly of Government
India: Introduce E-Governance at Grass Root Level: Kamat
India: MCD Ropes in ICICI Infotech for E-governance Initiatives
India: E-governance in India to Spur Language Computing Industry Growth
Pakistan: Seminar On Improvement Of Public Service Delivery
India: ICICI Info Signs E-governance Pact with MCD
South Korea: 'E-government' Stumbles at Its Outset
India: E-governance Needs Private Participation
   
    EU: EU Expands E-government
Italy: Stanca Thanks Ciampi for Mention of 'E-government'
UK: Global E-government
UK: New Centre to Improve Public Service Access
Ireland: Global e-Government
UK: Privacy Laws 'Hamper E-government'
UK: Data Headache for E-government
UK: £26m in Funding for E-government Announced
UK: Global E-government
Italy: E-government: July's European Conference in Italy
Ireland: IBEC Wants Better Public Service Value
UK: Force Offers 'Poor Public Service'
UK: Britain's Public Sector Deficit Eases
EU: Reach Deploys E-gov Messaging Service
UK: Byers: PM Must Set Limits on Role of Private Firms in Public Services
Ireland: Irish Projects Vie for Top E-gov Awards
UK: E-government Standards Body Launched
   
    UAE: Dubai e-Government to Boost Services
UAE: Implement E-government With Caution, Arabs Told
UAE: Dubai on Right Track in E-government
UAE: The Ninth GCC e-Government, Telecom and Internet Forum Opens in Dubai
Oman: Participants Discuss Hurdles in E-governance
Oman: Oman Studies Aspects of E-governance
UAE: Call to Set up Joint e-Government for GCC Countries
Saudi Arabia: Toward A Modern Concept Of Public Service
Lebanon: Qabalan Urges Government to Provide Public Services
   
    USA: E-gov Ready for Migration
USA: GovBenefits Touted as E-gov Model
USA: E-government Proposal is Public Sellout
USA: Government Boosts Its Online Security
USA: E-Commerce Continues To Grow Very Nicely
USA: Cutter Conference Debates IT Governance Models, Techniques
USA: Bell Tolls for Wisconsin e-Gov Department
USA: E-gov. Portal Will Help Streamline Construction
USA: Homeland Security, E-government top IT Spending
USA: Federal Web Site Wins Top Public Service Honor
USA: E-Gov Delivers Benefits on Many Fronts
USA: Four Agencies Get E-gov Rating Boost on OMB Management Scorecard
USA: E-Gov 2003 to Honor Innovative Agencies
USA: Study Finds Investment in e-Gov Is Still a Government Priority
USA: E-Gov Benefits Are Many, Hard to Measure Fully
USA: E-gov Proponents Say the Barriers Remain the Same
USA: Study: E-Government Won't Succeed Without Some Marketing
USA: 'Cultural Mindset' of Employees Called Barrier to E-gov Progress
USA: IAC to Offer Advice on E-gov Governance
USA: E-gov Chief 'Very Happy' With Progress on Initiatives
USA: OMB Details Procedure for Obtaining E-gov Funding
USA: E-government's Potential Falling Short in Michigan
USA: Government's Online Service Cures Hassles
   
    Global E-government
Study Spells Out e-Gov Benefits
NGO Concern Over Public Services Baseless-WTO Envoy
 
   
    Malawi: World Bank Funds Government of Malawi to Implement CODA Financial Management System
Kenya: Government Re-affirms Commitment to End Corruption
Nigeria: Government Plans for 'Friendly' Tax Policy
   
    Malaysia: Malaysia's Public Bank Wins Court Approval for Public Finance Privatization
China: Finance Ministry Clarifies No-Tax Policy on Imports to Fight SARS
Guam: Tax Conversion Commission Submits Series of Four Strategic Tax Policy Changes
China: Guangdong Publishes Preferential Tax Policies in midst of SARS Crisis
Vietnam: World Bank To Help Reform Vietnam's Ailing Public Finance System
   
    Ireland: Figures Reveal €1.7bn Public Finance Deficit
Czech Republic: Ruling Coalition Agrees on Public Finance Reform Plan
UK: U.K.'s FSA Aims to Improve Public's Finance Knowledge, FT Says
   
    USA: Governor Riley to Propose Tax Policy on Monday
USA: Dynamics, Tax Policy Point to Stronger Economy
USA: Local Officials Blast Tax Swap Plan
USA: Winstead Continues Expansion of Public Finance Practice With Addition of Paul Martin and Group
USA: Commentary: From Good Tax Policy to Empty Gesture
USA: Budget Proposal May Hinder Local Government Access, Say Critics
USA: Greenspan to Promote Financial Literacy in Public Service Ad
 
   
    Nigeria: Afribank Participates in Privatization Share Purchase Loan Scheme Programme
   
    India: Good Governance Missing, Feel Most Corporate Leaders
China: Union Leaders Demand Halt to Privatization
Philippines: Banks' Governance Ratings Soon To Be Made Public
Japan: Narita Privatization Plan Ready to Take Off Despite Cloudy Future
Guam: Needed Anti-privatization Stance Is Wrong; We Have No Choice
Pakistan: Government To Re-Open Privatization Process Of KESC
Pakistan: Privatization Aims To Provide Quality Service In Public Sector
Azerbaijan: IBA Leadership Speaks Of Successes Before Privatization
   
    Turkey: Unakitan - Interest In Promotion Of Privatization Is More Than Expected
Ireland: Rabbitte Backs Role for Private Firms Running Public Services
Hungary: Water Privatization Act Under Preparation
   
    Israel: State Will Name Observer to Oversee Bezeq Privatization
Iran: Finance Minister Underlines Priority of Economic Privatization
   
    USA: New Interest Shown in Privatization
USA: Greenspan Speech on Corporate Governance
USA: US Airways May Have Rejected Contracts and Leases with Pittsburgh International Airport, But the Airport's Bills Still Have To Be Paid
   
    A New Challenge - The Privatization of Foreign Policy
E-Gov Initiatives Mimic Private Sector
 

Court Voids New Anti-Corruption Law

Abuja - A Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday declared the new Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2003 law null and void while ordering that the previous law should remain in force. Justice Wilson Egbo-Egbo in his ruling in a case filed by four members of the House of Representatives who are challenging the mode of passing the new ICPC Act 2003, said the 2001 version of the law should continue to operate until it is amended by due process of law. "The ICPC Act shall continue to operate in this country pending when it shall be amended by due process of law. Life has been breathed back into the suit," the judge ruled. Noting that whenever the executive and legislature exceeds its power, the judiciary shall curb such excesses, Justice Egbo-Egbo said while it may be true that the court will not interfere in the law making process of the National Assembly, the court would interfere where proper procedures are not followed. He added: "it is therefore wrong for anybody to open his mouth and say that no court can interfere in the law making process of National Assembly." The trial judge, said disobedience to court order should not be seen as an affront on the judge who made the order, but a calculated attempt to insult the nation's judiciary. "A court of law has jurisdiction to protect its order from being ridiculed and when there's an attempt to disobey the court's order, the court must resist this public disgrace and ridicule with all the powers at its disposal," he said.

The judge said while it was not in dispute that the court made an order that the status quo be maintained on the ICPC Act 2001, he remarked it was even re-enforced on May 10 by a letter written by the president to the National Assembly on the said court order. "It is interesting and ironical that the president who is not a lawyer had to plead with the National Assembly not to disobey court orders. It is now very clear that all the necessary ingredients needed to establish contempt is in place. "(Mike) Ozekhome and (Joseph) Daudu while addressing the court arrogantly urged it to step aside from presiding over the matter and also alleged bias against me on a conjecture, which is wrong and unfounded. "Ozekhome said the law passed by the National Assembly remains valid. I am of the opinion that the law passed by the National Assembly in defiance of the court's order must be struck out and declared null and void. "Even though I expected Anyim (Pius Anyim) and (Ghali) Na'abba to act more maturely, I am unable to make an order for their arrest although I have the powers to do so as I believe they were misled. I leave them to their conscience especially Anyim who is a lawyer and Daudu," Egbo-Egbo said.

Delving into the facts of the case, the judge recalled that Chief Wole Olanipekun, counsel to the plaintiffs (Honourable Bala Kaoje and three other members of the House of Representatives), had urged the court to order the arrest of Anyim and Na'abba for their disobedience of its order that status quo be maintained. "What happened in this case is not only an affront to the court but would allow the National Assembly to take advantage of its illegality. (Kanu) Agabi urged the court to grant the application to save the court from acting in vain and save the legal profession. Babalola submitted that the disobedience of the court's order by the National Assembly was deliberate and that the court should give an order suspending the law from being passed by the National Assembly on May 8 or any other date, order the arrest of the principal officers of the National Assembly for disobedience to court order or in the alternative, give an order suspending the illegal order pending the determination of the suit. "I have a duty to perform. No court of law canvases for cases.

On April 12, I made an order that status quo be maintained. (Wole) Olanipekun reported that the court's order has been flouted and urged me to make an order for the arrest of principal officers, which I declined." Continuing he said: "The circumstances of this case in which the integrity of this court was attacked prompted it to allow oral application. I am of the humble opinion that the proceedings of this court of May 16, was proper. The legislature, Judiciary and Executive are creations of the constitution. The only people granted immunity are the president, vice-president, governors and their deputies. "There was no mention of the National Assembly. It is therefore an illusion to ascribe immunity to the officers of the National Assembly. The provision of Section 4 (a) has conferred on the judiciary the position of a watchdog on the executive and legislature." At the last hearing date on May 16, Olanipekun and Babalola, counsel to the president had asked the court to set aside whatever Act passed by the National Assembly on May 8, or any other day in contempt or violation of a subsisting order of court or in the alternative order the suspension or operation or coming into effect of whatever act passed by the National Assembly on May 8 or any other order until the determination of the case.

They also asked the court to order the arrest of Senate President, Anyim, Speaker Na'aba and the Clerk of the National Assembly for the steps they have taken in deliberately bringing the administration of justice to disrepute and odium. The National Assembly had last month voted to override the president's veto of its new anti-corruption law despite the subsisting order of a Federal High Court in Abuja which asked all proceedings on the ICPC Act to be stopped forthwith pending the determination of the case filed by the four representatives. The leaders of the two branches of the National Assembly, Anyim and Na'Abba, had argued that the constitution does not provide for any court to interfere with the legislature in its performance of the law making duties. Anyim even threatened to also order the arrest of the judge if Egbo tried to issue any warrant against the leadership of the National Assembly on the ground of contempt of court.

From This Day, Nigeria, by Lillian Okenwa, 22 May 2003

Good Governance and Economic Recovery

Nairobi - The Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR) recently hosted a conference to inform the search for a forward-looking and adaptive development strategy. Here is a summary of what took place. Nairobi has the greatest potential to become East Africa's regional financial centre. Kenya now has 46 commercial banks with a customer base estimated at 1.65 million. It has the best-developed financial markets in the region and a vibrant stock exchange. It has, moreover, the largest and best-developed banking sector with a deposit base of Sh346 billion, compared with Sh100 billion and Sh80 billion in Tanzania and Uganda, respectively. However, high borrowing costs and inaccessibility to credit by smallholders are Kenya's main problems. The wide gap between lending and deposit rates has led to a large number of non-performing loans. There is a need to improve access to credit by entrepreneurs in both rural and urban areas, especially the small operators. Bank interest rates should be kept at economically sustainable levels. A super-regulatory body should be established to oversee the sector. It is necessary to harmonise legislation and ensure fair implementation. Information & Communications Technology Technology has had phenomenal growth all over the world. In Kenya, these developments have an impact on manufacturing, transport and the public sector. ICT's strengths and opportunities lie in the skills and expertise available.

The goal should be to transform the country into a regional centre of excellence. Attaining this status would require enabling interventions in various areas, including deregulation of the telecommunications sector, allowing an Internet gateway and appropriate infrastructure. Standardisation of ICT training and education is necessary. Application of ICT in the form of e-services, e-commerce and e-government should be encouraged. Efficient legal structures and dispute resolution need to be set up. Particular attention should be paid to anti-piracy laws. A review of the ICT policy needs to include stakeholder ideas. It is also necessary to recognise such other media of communication and information transfer as broadcasting, postal and courier services. The transport sector embraces water, sea, lake, road, air, rail and pipeline transport. The Mombasa port is located on a "maritime superhighway" mid-point between north and south and east and west. The road network consists of 63,000km of a classified network connecting the country to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and parts of northern Tanzania, Ethiopia and Democratic Congo. Air transport facilities include Jomo Kenyatta, Moi and Eldoret International airports, all of which are capable of handling over three million passengers and 200,000 tons of cargo.

The flight time to most African, European or Middle Eastern destinations is not more than eight hours. Kenya's airports are strategically located to become regional transit points. Mombasa is the gateway to eastern and central Africa, but its level of development is still very low, handling ships with an average capacity of 500-600 containers. Larger ships carrying up to 8,000-12,000 containers cannot dock at the port. In addition, cargo handling at Mombasa is still very inefficient, thus discouraging its use by the hinterland countries neighbouring Kenya. To create an enabling environment, a dual carriageway should be built between Mombasa and Malaba and between Namanga and Moyale. Kilindini harbour's capacity should be doubled. Reviving the rural economy In Kenya, the absolute poor make up 56 per cent of the population. Of these, 80 per cent live below the poverty line. The income inequalities are caused by problems relating to natural and market endowments, property rights, market entitlements (accessibility, infrastructure, etc.), socio-economic opportunities, increasing crime and a climate of fear. The problems facing rural development are diverse and multi-sectoral. The wide income disparity between the rich and the poor has led to the rising number of people falling below the poverty line.

There are also sharp regional and gender differences in income distribution that need redress. Policy remedies should address ownership and use of productive assets and technology, micro-finance credit, appropriate production and transport technology and investment in infrastructure. The land policy should be reviewed to reduce settlement on agricultural land. The possibility of resettling the rural population in some designated centres and leaving ample land purely for agricultural production should be explored. Economic use of idle land through property taxes needs to be encouraged. Governance Issues Kenya lags behind in development due to poor governance. The entrenchment of political patronage and the accompanying rewarding of mediocrity has led to employment of unqualified individuals in crucial positions in public service. The situation has been compounded by promotion of systems that reward corruption, best exemplified by financial indiscipline and lack of accountability in public office. To develop as a regional services hub, there is a great need to improve transparency and reduce the costs of doing business. Corruption could be reduced through an enhanced incentive structure and a well-articulated code of ethics. Dr Omiti works at the Institute of Policy Analyses and Research.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by John M. Omiti, 24 May 2003

 

Good Governance Adds 10-50% to a Company's Worth

The bulk of institutional players have indicated their willingness to pay a premium of 10 per cent to 50 per cent for companies with excellent corporate governance practices, according to a survey. The joint KLSE-Pricewaterhouse Coopers Corporate Governance Survey 2002 found that 15 per cent of the respondents would pay more than 50 per cent premium for excellent corporate governance practices. Notably, 44 per cent are willing to pay between 10 per cent and 20 per cent extra, while 40 per cent would pay between 21 per cent and 50 per cent premium. Only one per cent would be happy with one to nine per cent premium. The institutional groups include unit trust fund and asset managers, large private investment funds including insurers and government funds, and their influencers such as heads of research and heads of institutional sales. "Institutional groups unanimously indicated that they would pay at least a 10 per cent premium to companies with excellent corporate governance practices," said PwC executive chairman Raja Datuk Arshad Uda. The other respondents to the survey were listed companies and independent non-executive directors.

Of the total, there were 91 institutions, 201 companies, and 329 directors. Speaking at the release of the survey on April 25, he said the corporate governance gap between Malaysia and other Asia Pacific jurisdictions like Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia had narrowed since the last survey in 1998. "All three target groups, the institutional groups, the independent non-executive directors and the public-listed companies confirm that the corporate governance regime in Malaysia has improved," he said. According to the survey, 96 per cent of directors, 93 per cent of the institutions and 84 per cent of the companies specified that corporate Malaysia has improved on corporate governance. In addition, Raja Arshad said a significant proportion of companies indicated they have exceeded the minimum reporting requirements for annual reports due to greater regulatory focus on corporate reporting. About 61 per cent of the companies stated that they have "exceeded" the minimum level of disclosure in their respective annual reports as opposed to 52 per cent in the 1998 survey.

From The Edge Daily, Malaysia, by Kevin Tan & Ng Kar Yean, 25 April 2003

Mahathir to Civil Servants: No 5-Day Week for Now

Malaysian PM resumes official duties after 2-month vacation - A five-day week for Malaysian civil servants? No chance. Malaysia is still not a developed country and cannot afford to take that route for now, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said. 'If you have a five-day week, there would still be services that would have to be carried out seven days a week. 'This means higher wages and allowances would have to be paid to those working on days off and thus increasing costs,' he said in his usual no-punches-pulled style interview which was published yesterday and which announced his return from a two-month vacation. In the April 29 interview with Khidmat, the official civil service magazine, he also told civil servants to forget salary hikes as this could lead to inflation. The civil service union Cuepacs has for years been pushing for a five-day work week for the 900,000 government employees. Its request was met partially some years ago. Government offices now shut on alternate Saturdays of the month - a move taken to give workers more time to rest and spend with the family as well as to boost domestic tourism. But that was not what was happening. Some were using these days to make extra money and the move was not doing much for domestic tourism, he noted. 'We cannot afford to work less. We started with one additional day off and extended it to two days a month.

At the moment, I think this is about right.' Cautioning against the effects of increasing salaries, he said the move would not only push up the cost of living for everyone - thus nullifying the pay increase - but also drain the country's coffers. What the country needed now was growth, he said and appealed to civil servants to work harder to boost the country's growth which would translate to a richer Malaysia. The country aims to be a developed nation by 2020. 'If they don't work hard and are not dedicated but keep demanding higher salaries, they may get higher salaries. But the country will become poor and the cost of living will go up,' he said. Looking refreshed, a cheery Dr Mahathir was busy in his Putrajaya office on his official return to office, an aide said. 'He was in the office all day long after a few meetings in the morning.' The 77-year-old Premier started his first working day by delving into the same issue that has worried the government the past two months: sustaining economic growth. He also discussed the soon-to-be-unveiled draft of the economic stimulus package with Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who stood in for the Premier during the latter's two-month vacation. Media speculation on its contents includes a slew of new government projects, a cut in interest rates, and financial help for industries hard hit by the Sars outbreak.

From Straits Times, Singapore, by Reme Ahmad, 6 May 2003

Brunei Moves Closer to Building e-Government

Dato Paduka Hj Hazair bin Hj Abdullah, the Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, was the guest of honour at the launch. Rudolf Portillo: "His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam continuously reminds us about the importance of upgrading work performance and quality of services provided. This clearly shows the concern and hopes of His Majesty for the administrative machine of the country to be responsible in preparing, planning and implementing the country's development strategy." This was said by Dato Paduka Haji Hazair bin Haji Abdullah, the Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister Office as the guest of honour officiating the 'Preparatory Seminar for the Implementation of e-Government Projects' that took place at the Civil Institute Service, yesterday. He added that ICT is one of the measures for countries to develop in the race towards modernisation, without having to go through development levels, which are experienced by developed countries. In his speech he noted that the overall aim of the e-Government project was to ensure that the public and business communities would be able to receive efficient and effective services from the Government and at the same time enabling the development and the growth of the economy. Furthermore he advised them to work more diligently to ensure that they were not left behind in ICT aspects.

The underlying principle in introducing e-Government in His Majesty's Government Service was to ensure the country would be able to use modern technology and to ensure that the country one-day would become one of the leading countries in ICT development in the region. Dato Paduka Haji Hazair said, "We need to analyse the plans and implementation of various e-Government projects that are available and pick the best one to be implemented in achieving the mission and aspirations of the civil service as a whole." One aspect that needs to be emphasised is the constant updating of the implementation of e-Government towards processing systems and work procedures. This is an imperative factor to avoid work piling up and also to accelerate the decision making process. In implementing e-Government projects, the Civil Service should continuously be dynamic and open to enable them to play vital roles in paradigm shifts and to develop a positive mind set towards modernisation and the impact of globalisation. "The implementation of e-Government is a challenge to us and there are no short cuts. The process is not only based on infrastructure, hardwares, softwares and application but also involves human resources who continuously make full use of it skillfully," he said. Dato Paduka Haji Hazair ended his speech by stating that clear visions and goals, effective leadership and commitment, effective management change and continuous learning and expansion process are the main factors practiced by other countries in successfully implementing their respective e-Government programmes.

From Borneo Bulletin, Brunei, by Laila Rahman, 14 May 2003

Public Servants Told To Further Improve Services

Bandar Seri Begawan - Public servants should accept that they need to improve further their services to the public and the private sectors in the country. Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office Dato Awang Haji Hazair issued this reminder at the Maulud Celebration organised for the Prime Minister's Office and the departments under it. He said there are three specifics that need improvement, namely organisation structure, management and manpower. He also urged public servants from all departments to improve their work quality and productivity. The Maulud Celebration was highlighted with a Dikir presentation and a special talk on the Prophet Muhammad by an invited speaker from the Islamic Dakwah Centre. The annual celebration was conducted this year by the Internal Security Department.

From Bru Direct, Brunei, 23 May 2003

 

Declaration on e-Governance in the EU and SE Europe

The establishment of effective e-Governance is necessary to meet the Lisbon goals. The above is stressed in the joint declaration of the EU Ministers of Communications and Transportation, the EFTA countries (members of the European Economic Area), the EU acceding countries, the Associated Countries and the SE European countries. The joint declaration was issued on the sidelines of the international conference on Tools for the e-Governance in the EU and its SE European neighbors. In the declaration they stress the importance of the establishment of pan-European services for the Society of Information and the adoption of common criteria for the operation of those services. Taking under consideration the absence of telecommunications infrastructure in certain SE European regions, the ministers agreed that the services should get underway through on-line and conventional telecommunications channels for improved information and accessibility. On e-Governance, the ministers stress that internal reorganization is necessary namely, changes in the structures and work organizing, training and work conditions. They also agree that effective e-Governance can improve services, strengthen societies, increase productivity and social welfare and strengthen democracy.

From Macedonian Press Agency, Greece

The Real Public Services Debate

Tony Blair paints his critics as opponents of all NHS reform. But the left supports the end of top-down control too - by devolving real power rather than introducing a new internal market. To claim that history is on your side, as if the path of progress always points in one direction only, can be an effective polemical trick. But if you start to believe it yourself it can be your own thinking that gets stuck in a rut. Faced with a looming parliamentary rebellion this week over legislation to create Foundation Hospitals, Tony Blair insists he will not "depart from the path of reform". "Public services can either be renewed, which is what we want, or dismantled, which is what parts of the right want, but they will not stay with public support unreformed", says the Prime Minister. Health Secretary Alan Milburn last week set out a similarly "stark choice" between "cautious incrementalism" and "fundamental transformation". "The direction of travel is now set - and it must not be reversed", he insists. Rather, we must press ahead with reform with foot firmly "on the accelerator and not on the brake". This is disingenuous - the government's proposals have run into opposition from former ministers and moderate Labour backbenchers not because they are against any reform to the NHS. Most, in fact, would be wholly sympathetic to some vision of devolution and democratisation - the end of "top down", "one size fits all", "Whitehall knows best" paternalism - that the government invokes in its defence.

The central charge from critics is rather that such language serves only to obfuscate a very different underlying agenda - the creation of a new commercial market in health services that has little to do with real professional empowerment and user participation. The fundamental idea behind the establishment of Foundation Trusts is that some and eventually all NHS hospitals become independent of the Secretary of State and responsible for their own financial viability, effectively competing for NHS business with each other and with private providers (who may themselves be granted "Foundation" status). The premise, that this will incite new powers of entrepreneurialism and innovation from Trust executives and managers, is at best unproven. But we have the experience of the Conservatives' "internal market" experiment to demonstrate that breaking up the health service in this way will increase administration costs, inhibit cooperation and the sharing of good practice, and undermine any notion of designing a strategically planned and "joined-up" network of care services. Most insidiously, as standalone entities Trusts will be under pressure to minimise their financial exposure and maximise sources of revenue through commercial ventures and deals with the private sector.

It was in response to such concerns that various amendments to the original proposals have been announced, from restrictions on the amount of private practice Foundation Hospitals can undertake to new structures of "stakeholder governance" via elected boards. But as Professor John Mohan of Portsmouth University argues in a paper for Catalyst, the reforms still run against basic principles of an equitable, comprehensive and integrated national health service. Under the Bill now before parliament there remains scope and incentive for Foundation Trusts to seek competitive advantage over other hospitals by drawing away scarce capital and staff, "cream-skimming" the more economical patients, shifting costs onto other agencies, retaining operating surpluses and selling off assets, and bringing private sector involvement right into the heart of clinical services. Moreover, it is clear that the superficial layers of community representation, belatedly superimposed on what is essentially a new internal market, are simply too weak and underdeveloped to contain the powerful dynamics of competition and commercialisation this restructuring will unleash. As the Catalyst paper argues, overseas experience shows how even fully mutualised "non-profit" healthcare providers can find it hard to survive in a market environment without abandoning "important elements of their historic mission like their community orientation, leadership role and capacity to innovate", and becoming increasingly indistinguishable from their profit-maximising competitors.

It would have made far more sense to start with the goal of a more democratic and decentralised health service and look for genuinely "bottom-up" ways devolving power and engaging local service users - by democratising Primary Care Trusts, for example, as many have suggested. A radical set of proposals for creating local accountability and strengthening community "ownership" was tabled by the Commission on the NHS chaired by Will Hutton - but the government abolished the Community Health Councils who had set it up. Meanwhile clinical professionals and health workers have been totally sidelined by the process, their alienation reflected in the frustrations expressed by the trade unions and professional bodies representing them. We needn't look far to see how an alternative reform agenda might work in practice. In Scotland, where Labour held onto its majority in the Holyrood parliament this week, the Executive has just published its own "blueprint to transform Scotland's health services". Health minister Malcolm Chisholm affirmed that increased investment "will only deliver the necessary improvements if it is matched by a programme of modernisation that is based on the needs of patients." The White Paper promises "a health service that is fit for the 21st century", characterised by "patient-centred services" and - wait for it - "decentralisation of decision making and an end to traditional command and control approaches". The rhetoric sounds familiar, but the policy and the politics are refreshingly different.

For Scotland is dissolving the separate NHS Trusts created as part of the Tories' internal market, rather than entrenching their independence as in the Foundational Hospitals scheme. At the same time the Scottish plan - developed in close collaboration with health service unions and local partners - institutes a real devolution of "power and responsibility to clinicians and patients" by giving new autonomy to "frontline units" and involving the public through a new Scottish Health Council and better links with local government. Nothing could more clearly demonstrate the multiple meanings of "modernisation", the different routes that "decentralisation" could take, and the lesson that integrated networks of cooperation and support offer the most promising basis for real flexibility, innovation and responsiveness on the frontline of service delivery. Blairites will perhaps cite the specificities of the Scottish national context in reply. But this only confirms that their programme for public services is less about "devolution" and "responsiveness" as such, and more about playing to an assumed Thatcherite bias in English politics by seeking to emulate the attractions of the private sector, blurring the boundaries between consumerism and social citizenship, and picking fights with the defenders of the public, its employees included. The real question for debate is whether this insistent mimicry of the right does indeed constitute a viable political strategy for retaining and rebuilding popular support for tax-funded public services. Labour has embarked on a historic journey of public service renewal that presents the most essential political challenge of its term of office. The MPs raising voices of concern this week are looking not for halts or u-turns, but for new directions.

Friom Guardian, UK, by Martin McIvor, 3 May 2003

British PM Faces Labour Revolt Over Health Care Reforms

Having gambled his political future on the Iraq war and won, British Prime Minister Tony Blair was facing a new challenge on Wednesday - getting his own Labour members of parliament (MPs) to back his plans to reform the National Health Service. Nearly 100 Labour rebels were liable to vote against Blair's plans for so-called "foundation hospitals", which opponents say would result in a "two-tier" health system in Britain, with different standards of care. Under Blair's plans foundation hospitals will remain part of the National Health Service (NHS), which offers free health care to all Britons. But they will be able to directly borrow private money. Ordinary NHS hospitals are allocated a budget from central government, which has in the past notoriously under funded the health sector. In addition, foundation hospitals will be accountable to the local community rather than directly to central government and will be able to set their own targets on patient waiting lists. Other NHS hospitals will remain obliged to meet waiting time targets set by central government. The country's best-performing hospitals will be the first to be offered foundation status but the government says it wants all NHS hospitals to follow within four or five years. Those whose performance is subsequently deemed to be poor or who became financially inviable will lose their special status.

Blair told MPs ahead of a parliamentary debate and vote on Wednesday that his Labour government's "massive investment" in the NHS had to be matched by "real reform". "The important thing is to make sure that at the same time as we're putting this massive investment in the health service, the public sees real reform taking place, because that is the basis upon which they are prepared to support funding the health service," he said. Kicking off the debate in the House of Commons, Health Secretary Alan Milburn denied that the government's plans amounted to privatisation. "In no way can this bill be reasonably described as privatisation, or a step in that direction - through the front door, through the back door or through the side door. "This is not privatisation. It is democratisation," he told lawmakers. Blair and his Labour Party were re-elected in 2001 by a healthy majority on a ticket that promised radical reform to Britain's ailing public services, which have been undermined by years of under-investment. But his plans to transform the way hospitals are funded has angered many within his own ranks.

Blair now faces his biggest party revolt since the eve of the Iraq war, when 139 out of a total 412 Labour MPs voted against his decision to join the United States in the conflict. One rebel deputy, who did not wish to be named, said on Wednesday he expected 60 to 80 Labour MPs to vote against the government on foundation hospitals. "It is not on the scale of Iraq but it is still significant and not one that can be easily dismissed," the MP said. "This is not a matter of conscience. It is a major Labour policy about how public services should be delivered." Created in 1948, the National Health Service is one of the world's biggest organisations, with a budget of more than 50 billion pounds (70 billion euros, 80 billion dollars). In England alone, it employs one million staff. But it has come under criticism for excess bureaucracy, long patient waiting lists and a shortage of doctors and nurses. Even if Blair wins Wednesday's vote, his plans will face further scrutiny before they can become law in both the lower house of parliament, the House of Commons, and the upper house, the House of Lords.

From Arab Times, Middle East, 8 May 2003

Public Administration Forum: Berlusconi, We Aim to Modernise State

Rome - "This administration is trying to maintain the promises it made to Italians," maintaining the confidence "that it was conceded," said Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in the video message registered for the Public Administration Forum taking place in Rome. The message was shown non-stop at the stand of the Prime Minister's Office. "We enjoy a vast majority in Parliament, and we are busy realising those reforms that different administrations that preceded us, also because of the brevity of the time at their disposal, were not able to do," said the Premier. A delay which had an effect. "Italy has remained behind compared to other states with which it has to compete." And so there is a need to use the five year term to "modernise the state," intervening in its institutional architecture, "passing from a perfect bicameralism to a state of autonomies," emphasised Berlusconi in his message. Berlusconi added that a "long discussion" also involves the Constitutional Court and the form of the government. "We are working on reforms of the Penal Code, the Civil Code, and the Codes of Penal and Civil Trials," and another strong commitment is in the direction of "joint text with laws gathered by subject."

But there is still much to do on infrastructure. "In the last twenty or so years, nothing has been done in comparison with our neighbours France and Germany." And there is also the project to re-launch the south, said Berlusconi. Concerning the specific subjects of the fourteenth edition of the Forum which opened yesterday at the Rome Fairgrounds, Berlusconi said that a government key goal is the modernisation of the public administration, "both on the central and on the local levels." The Prime Minister's Office, said Berlusconi, has started a profound reorganisation process, with goals of reducing spending, the enhancement of human resources, the improvement of offered services. And in this context, the "project of rationalisation of the headquarters of the Office are also included, with the redesign of the offices according to functional needs." At last, an appeal was made by Berlusconi to public functionaries, whom he asked "from the bottom of my heart" to actively collaborate "in a helpful manner, formulating your ideas and also your criticism" for the interest of each citizen-client, and not only the state in itself.

From Agenzia Giornalistica, Italia, 7 May 2003

Government Outlines Anti-corruption Tmetable

The government has announced its timetable for the introduction of further anti-corruption measures. The first of the measures is a constitutional amendment, expected to be debated in June, that would deal with conflicts of interests and changes in immunity for MPs. Further bills are expected in August and October this year. The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information presented in its Flash News postings.

From Slovak Spectator, Slovakia, by Conrad Toft, 9 May 2003

'E-Government: Paving the Way to 2010', Valencia, Spain

The first e-Forum summit on the theme of e-government will take place on 15 and 16 September in Valencia, Spain. This event, open to participants from all sectors, public and private, will bring together European public administrations, universities and information technology (IT) professionals to explain, debate and harmonise the best practices and initiatives to develop e-government in Europe. The summit will include a number of plenary sessions with contributions from both the public and private sectors about successful experiences and innovative proposals on e-government, and a set of parallel sessions focusing on the topics being examined by the working groups recently launched by e-Forum. e-Forum is a not for profit association, set up with funding from the European Commission, and brings together all interested parties active in the field of e-government in Europe. For further information, please consult the following web address: http://www.eu-forum.org/

From Cordis News, EU, 9 May 2003

Public Aministration Still To Comply with Privacy Law

Rome - Six years after the law about privacy came into force, the Authority stressed many public administrations had still to fully comply with measures concerning sensitive data. Telecom companies recorded the highest number of legal actions filed by the privacy watchdog. According to the report the Authority for the protection of privacy presented to Parliament, "public administrations distinguish themselves for not enacting those acts and decrees necessary to the collection and the use of personal data." The Authority also stated privacy protection could not be considered as the only right to be 'left alone', as it concerned also fundamental human rights, such as the right to know and control information stored in data banks. The Authority, which is going also to outline guidelines of good conduct for highly sensitive sectors such as the Internet, said people paid more attention to that issue, as 2002 statistical data about the increase in the activities of the Authority showed.

Settled legal actions doubled, growing from 211 in 2001 to 500 to 2002; also the interventions of the Authority and the complains increased (from 2,327 to 3,689), while the requests of information amounted to 12,800. The Authority carried out 40 inspections in public and private offices, that is twice as much as last year. The privacy watchdog reckoned an "improvement in the relationships between public administration and citizens was necessary", while local institutions and Regions should collaborate more closely. Also a clearer legal framework for treating data available on line and for telecom operators was said to be important. According to the report, focusing also on biometric data (i.e. the so much discussed about fingerprints), many claims about advertising by e-mail were filed. The collection of unauthorized e-mail addresses was considered illegal. As far as telecom companies, it was brought to the attention of the Authorities cases in which dealers activated sim cars under the name of unknown or even dead people.

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 20 May 2003

 

Public Administration Grew by 1,500 Employees in Q1

The business sector laid off 12,800 employees in March and 8,600 in April. The business sector is firing workers, while the public administration (government offices and local authorities) is hiring. Public administration grew by 1.1%, or 1,500 employees, to reach 133,000 employees in the first quarter of 2003. In contrast, the business sector fired 8,600 employees in April and 12,800 in March, according to an analysis of data published yesterday by the Central Bureau of Statistics and Israel National Employment Service. The data show that public administration has hired 5,400 employees since January 2001, an increase of 4.1%. The number of newly unemployed grew by 33%, or 70,000 people, over the same period.

From Globes Online, Israel, 21 May 2003

 

White House, Pentagon Eye Basing Pay Boosts on Merit

The Bush administration is making a two-pronged attack on civil service rules it considers outdated, and opponents say the changes will endanger national security. The White House - with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in the point position - wants to introduce a merit pay system in government, with the lion's share of future raises based on an individual's performance. Eventually it would like to eliminate the so-called "being there" raises. These are longevity raises worth 3 percent (in addition to regular raises) that employees get for length of service. OPM has been pushing these changes for months to groups nationwide. Last week, the Department of Defense began a surprise end run, seeking quickie congressional approval for a go-it-alone DoD personnel system. It would include pay for performance, but it also calls for changes in reduction in force (rif) rules that would give less protection for seniority as well as performance. The Defense Department plan would make "reshaping" easier by offering early retirement and maximum $25,000 buyouts to selected employees. It also would revamp rules in favor of more contracting out of services now performed by civil servants. The DoD has an ace in the hole because the bulk of its proposal will be considered by two, instead of one, congressional committees in the House.

The first is the Government Reform Committee led by Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican. Mr. Davis is a leader in the Republican majority and a team player. But he and the White House know that he gets re-elected with federal employee/retiree votes. He wants to have a hand in shaping any DoD or White House changes. At the same time, Defense's proposals (most of them) for the civil service also will go through the House Armed Services Committee. It's likely to give the Pentagon pretty much what it wants. The problem - if there is one - for the administration is the Senate. It's in no hurry to deal with the Defense proposals (which got a rare House hearing 24 hours after they were introduced). And it will rely much more on a this-is-a-great-idea-but report from the General Accounting Office. GAO has advocated a variety of changes in the "human capital" (in English that's people, GS-4s through GS-15s). But GAO warned that the Defense plan, though chock-full of good ideas and merit, shouldn't be rushed into production.

Although Defense says it has tested (and that people loved) performance pay and pay banding (substituting individual grades for broader salary ranges), GAO says rushing into it for 600,000-plus DoD civilians could cause more problems. Democratic Reps. Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Henry A. Waxman of California say the Defense plan is a "cynical" attempt to break the civil service and fatten the purses of wannabe Defense contractors. They say the Bush administration has been out to get feds and break up their unions, and this is the tool needed to do it. So what's in it for you? Plenty, if you are a fed or a taxpayer. Bear in mind that administrations have tried - and mostly failed - to get their version of civil service "reform." But Defense has a league-leading batting average when it comes to getting what it wants out of Congress. It could be that while the powers that oppose change are fighting the White House/OPM reform camel, its stronger twin, from the Pentagon, has its nose sticking in the tent. (Mike Causey, senior editor at FederalNewsRadio.com, can be reached at 202/895-5132 or by e-mail at mcausey@washingtontimes.com).

From Washington Times, DC, by Mike Causey, 6 May 2003

Public Service Bill Needs Major Changes: Union

Ottawa - The Public Service Alliance of Canada says the Liberals are trying to push a bad law through Parliament before an election campaign, and have left them out of the discussions. The legislation is the government's first bid to reform the public service in more than 30 years. PSAC, one of Canada's biggest public sector unions, says the proposed reforms to the public service would give managers too much power over hiring, and would curtail the workers' right to strike. PSAC president Nycole Turmel made her case to a House of Commons committee in March when the bill was in the second reading, but that's just not enough for such sweeping legislation, she says. Turmel maintains the Privy Council committee that drafted the bill should have consulted the union long before committee hearings. Now there's not enough time left for discussion because the government wants to pass the law by July, Turmel says. "It's quite difficult when there are major problems with the new bill to do that in a short period like it is right now," she says.

The kind of consultation Turmel wants would mean a big change in government practice, according to Arthur Kroeger, a former deputy minister with the federal government for 17 years. He says cabinet usually comes up with an idea for a bill, and it gets drafted by government departments. It's customary that unions don't get a chance to comment until the bill gets tabled in the House. "If PSAC is saying that it should have participated in the drafting of the bill, that would be very unusual. You don't do that," says Kroeger. "If you're going to bring in new competition legislation, you don't invite the Chamber of Commerce in to help you draft it." Turmel says the government should have made an exception in this case, because one of the aims of the bill is to improve relations with public sector unions. Now, she says the Liberals are trying to pass the bill quickly so public servants who don't like it will forget the issue by the time an election rolls around.

From CBC Ottawa, Canada, 5 May 2003

Local Government Addresses Needs of a Diverse Community

Gaithersburg, Maryland - Twenty kilometers northwest of Washington DC, in the heart of Montgomery County, Maryland, a diverse community of more than 50,000 people live, work, go to school, and raise their families in the city of Gaithersburg. A century ago, Gaithersburg was a railroad stop linking nearby farmers with commercial centers. Today, it is a community of multiple nationalities. Many people are employed in nearby U.S. government agencies or companies such as biotech firms that have sprouted up in the area. There are more than 2,000 businesses in the city today. Gaithersburg embraces its diversity enthusiastically. Many of its residents speak Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean or Russian at home. More than 20 percent of the total population is Hispanic. Public libraries in town include whole sections of books in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and other languages for the community's use. The city has an extensive social services program, which includes treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, transitional shelter for the homeless and needy, a senior center providing activities, classes and trips, and recreational centers providing youth services and sports. This year, Gaithersburg was selected as a finalist for the country's most prestigious civic recognition program - the All American City Award.

The National Civic League will select this year's winning cities in June, based on how well local governments address a wide range of social and community issues, including services to a diverse community, support to parents helping children, and assistance for persons in financial need. While many of Gaithersburg's residents may not realize it, they owe their quality of life to a group of dedicated public officials who run the city's affairs, and who see their mission as serving the citizens' needs. This group is comprised of an elected part-time mayor, an elected five-member City Council, an appointed city manager and a paid staff of more than 300 city employees. Their collective vision is to retain the best qualities of small town life in Gaithersburg while embracing new technology opportunities. And, as its credo, the city has adopted "six pillars of character" - trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. The credo appears in banners hung on bridges, and in public school entryways. This year, the city is celebrating its 125th anniversary. Incorporated in 1878 under a charter that called for a governing board of commissioners, Gaithersburg changed in 1898 to a system under which a mayor and councilmen ran the city. Since 1962, when the city's charter was amended to provide for the appointment of a city manager, Gaithersburg has operated under a council-manager form of municipal government.

What do the mayor, the city council, and the city manager do? How do they work together to govern this growing city? How do they make decisions? And how do the citizens who elected them communicate with these city officials? The answers to these questions provide an example of effective local government. Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney Katz is a long-time resident who runs a family clothing store business just two blocks from City Hall, where he presides over City Council meetings. He doesn't vote on council matters but does have the power to veto a measure. In addition, the mayor participates in numerous activities that can keep him busy into the evening. As the "face" of the city, Katz delivers the annual State of the City Address at a city-sponsored dinner, rides in local parades, attends book fairs, helps to plant trees on school grounds, and attends award ceremonies for Boy Scouts and other groups. Katz has been providing public service to Gaithersburg for more than 26 years, and now as mayor he earns a salary of $7,500 a year - just about enough to cover some of his mayoral expenses. This salary certainly doesn't compensate him for his time and hard work, but Katz says "it has never been a factor for me." He also serves as president of the City Council, which is currently comprised of three men and two women.

Elections are held for staggered four-year terms, so not all seats are at stake each time. The council members work with city residents, listening to their problems and concerns and deciding what can be done to help them. Like the mayor, the City Council members have regular jobs and consider their $6,000-a-year salary a token payment for service. On the current council, Geraldine Edens (an attorney), Ann Somerset (a pharmaceutical association executive), Henry Marraffa (a computer software executive), Stanley Alster (retired from the American Red Cross), and John Schlichting (a development company executive) work together to govern the city. Schlichting, who is the newest member, says he spends about 20 hours a week on City Council matters and considers his payment an ease on his expenses that "certainly doesn't compensate me for any time away from my family and my day job." The City Council members, along with Mayor Katz, are the policy setters, comparable to a board of directors. They meet at City Hall twice a month. Not only are citizens encouraged to attend the council sessions in person, they also can watch from home via live telecast on the city's cable channel. The city manager serves as Gaithersburg's chief executive officer. City Manager David Humpton, who was been on the job since 1995, acts on policies set by the mayor and City Council. Once they decide what is to be done, the city manager is the one who must find a way to implement the policy.

Humpton is responsible for economic development, which includes supporting existing businesses and encouraging new ones to settle in Gaithersburg. He also watches over environmental affairs, including programs to reduce water pollutants and improve stream erosion. He maintains social services, including overseeing grants for health clinics and homeless shelters and English-as-a-second-language programs for residents who want to learn English. He ensures that all city laws and ordinances are implemented. He oversees human resources, including training and benefits for city employees. And he communicates with the public through a local cable TV channel, news releases and a city website. The constantly updated website - www.ci.gaithersburg.md.us - provides information on city news, government, services and history. Humpton considers it vital for the city to use a variety of ways to communicate with its citizens, and do so in a timely fashion. "This is accomplished through news releases, informational brochures, the Internet, cable television and advertising," he says. "Also, the Public Information Office mails a quarterly newsletter, called 'The Communique,' to all households in the city." Humpton also prepares the annual budget, which he then administers after its adoption by the council.

The city's current fiscal budget, which ends June 30, is $30.9 million. This budget includes employee salaries, vehicle costs, supplies, street resurfacing and other repairs, cleaning services, legal fees, landscaping and beautification projects, and grants to non-profit organizations. The effort to prepare the annual budget, which takes effect July 1 each year, is a six-month-long process, beginning with a two-day session in which the mayor and City Council develop strategic directions for the year and prioritize projects. Proposals are received from the various city government departments and a public hearing is conducted to allow citizen input. The city manager and his staff hold numerous work sessions, and the City Council votes on the final proposal in June. While the proposed budget for 2003-04 shows a two percent increase over the current one, because of a projected increase in city revenues from other sources, the property tax rate will remain the same. Humpton says the budget continues Gaithersburg's "pay as you go" fiscal philosophy.

He points out proudly that "for the 39th consecutive year, the city's budget can be funded without a tax rate increase." Gaithersburg residents reinforce their community spirit, and their sense of working together, in a yearly celebration. On the third Sunday in September each year, the main intersection in town becomes a pedestrian mall for a Gaithersburg Day celebration. Government, businesses and community organizations all participate. With the streets free of cars, citizens stroll around enjoying the festive atmosphere, sampling food from the many cultures that make up the community. There also are bandstands with continuous music; booths to provide information about clubs, political parties, businesses and other groups; and places to buy local crafts. Just like the parades that the city holds on national holidays, says Humpton, attending the Gaithersburg Day event "is what makes the city special - you feel you are part of the community." (The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov).

From Washington File, by Stuart Gorin, 21 May 2003

 

UN Says It Will Root Out Fraud and Corruption

United Nations - When a former chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee blasted the United Nations for waste and mismanagement, he also remarked that providing funds to the world body was like pouring money into a "rathole." Jesse Helms, an influential right-wing conservative who had the power to block the US contribution to the United Nations, had his own political agenda in disparaging the world body. But his criticism touched a raw nerve in an institution whose peacekeeping operations in the 1990s were infamous for their fraud and malfeasance. The United Nations, which has long preached transparency and accountability to the outside world, is now launching a program to promote "mainstream ethics and integrity within the organization," Dileep Nair, UN Undersecretary General for Internal Oversight Services, told reporters. The proposed scheme, called the Organizational Integrity Initiative, would allow the organization "to apply internally the emerging approaches on corruption control and building organizational integrity," Nair said. The move comes at a time when the United Nations is pushing for a global convention against corruption, which is expected to be signed by the 191 UN member-states at a meeting scheduled for Mexico by the end of this year.

Asked why the initiative is needed when the UN charter already specifies standards for the ethical behavior of international civil servants, Nair answered that while the majority of UN staff members are people of high integrity, "it was no secret that there were instances of fraud and corruption within the UN system." That was one of the reasons why his own agency, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), was created in 1994, Nair added. The United States, which has long accused the United Nations of nurturing an ineffective and "bloated bureaucracy," played a key role in the creation of OIOS. Madeleine Albright, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, constantly complained that the world body had "developed wasteful habits during the Cold War that have yet to be fully cured." But since the late 1990s, the global body has undergone drastic changes, including the merger and abolition of several departments and the reduction of staff by more than 10 percent. Nair said that integrity and ethics were now a high priority for the United Nations and a crucial ingredient in Secretary-General Kofi Annan's ongoing efforts to reform the organization. The new initiative also comes at a time when the international community and the corporate world are preoccupied with the issue of governance.

Currently, Western donors and most UN agencies insist on "good governance"-a corruption-free, multiparty democracy respectful of the rule of law and human rights-as a precondition for development aid. As a prelude to the launch of the initiative, UN officials will participate in a program on corruption and integrity at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts. The history of UN peacekeeping operations has been marked by theft, fraud and gross mismanagement, according to diplomats here. The UN's biggest single loss is the still unresolved disappearance of US$3.9 million in cash said to have been stolen from UN peacekeeping operations in Somalia in April 1994. The theft remains a mystery despite intervention by England's elite Scotland Yard, which drew a blank after months of investigations. No staff member was held responsible for the loss. The United Nations also held no employees responsible for the overpayment of nearly $1 million in special allowances to UN peacekeepers in Kuwait years ago. The body also concluded that one of its most expensive peacekeeping operations, in Cambodia, was marred by a rash of robberies and the loss of millions of dollars worth of trucks, cars, cellular phones, computers and electronics equipment.

A UN report admitted that more than US$8 million in equipment were stolen -mostly by unknown persons-from the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (Untac). The stolen equipment included US$3-million worth of vehicles, $2.5 million in communications equipment, US$1.5 million in laptop computers, half a million dollars in prefabricated accommodation and US$453,000 in generators. Although no money was recovered, United Nations officials may know who the culprits are because they hint to reporters that the "robbery" may have been an "inside job." An Asian diplomat told IPS that member states would welcome the new initiative aimed at eliminating fraud and corruption. He said the United Nations has had several watchdog bodies overseeing management, including the Board of Auditors, the Joint Inspection Unit and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ). "But despite the existence of these bodies, waste and mismanagement have continued in the UN system," he added.

From Manila Times, Philippines, by Thalif Deen, 6 May 2003

G8 Summit in Evian - Reporters Without Borders says "Good Governance" Needs a Free Press

Montreal - In a letter to each of the heads of state and government taking part in the G8 summit(*), Reporters Without Borders today called on them take up the defence of press freedom throughout the world. The organisation hopes that the Evian G8 will, to use French President Jacques Chirac's phrase, "provide momentum" for progress towards a more harmonious and peaceful world. It is convinced that such progress will depend on the "momentum" that is given to the freedom to inform and be informed. The existence of a press independent of any government is necessary to development, which is one of the primary objects of the Evian meeting. Press freedom is closely linked to the major goals the G8 has set itself: solidarity, responsibility, security and democracy. News is needed by those who are asked to give solidarity and by those who benefit from it. News is necessary so that everyone does what they are supposed to do, so that every person and all peoples can be actors in their own development. By providing information about other people the news helps to avoid ethnic or national conflict or a "clash of civilisations." It is also an essential element of "good governance" in any democratic society.

This is also the conclusion of a report recently published by the World Bank, "The right to tell." The Bank's president, James D. Wolfensohn, said: "A free press is not a luxury. It is at the core of equitable development. The media can expose corruption. They can keep a check on public policy by throwing a spotlight on government action. They let people voice diverse opinions on governance and reform, and help build public consensus to bring about change." Reporters Without Borders therefore urged the heads of state and government taking part in the G8 to: - Scrupulously respect and ensure respect for article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, which proclaims the right "to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." In particular, this implies the free movement of journalists and free access to all communication technologies. - Ensure that journalists are protected in unsafe zones; ensure that all belligerents respect the status of journalists as "civilian personnel" in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. - Combat impunity for crimes against journalists and others who work in the news media. - Draft legislation that effectively guarantees press freedom and abolishes prison sentences for press offences, as the United Nations special rapporteur for freedom of expression and opinion has recommended.

The organisation reminded the G8 that 125 journalists are currently in prison, and that 481 have died in the course of the past 10 years, in most cases the victims of state violence, paramilitary groups or criminal organisations. These figures testify to the unacceptable violations carried out directly or indirectly against a human right without which the other rights cannot be respected, against a freedom that is the condition for other freedoms. The Reporters Without Borders letter concluded: "It may well seem that there is a more urgent need to help the hundreds of millions of men, women and children who are suffering and dying because they lack food and have no access to drinking water. But it is through the news that we learn about such calamities, discuss the alternative solutions, and monitor their implementation." (*) President Jacques Chirac of France, President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, President George Bush of the United States, Prime Minister Jean Chretien of Canada, Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy.

From Canada NewsWire, Canada, 27 May 2003

 

New Report On Corruption in Courts Ready

Nairobi - An initial report by the Judiciary Sub Committee on Integrity and Corruption was ready and would be acted on, said the Chief Justice Evan Gicheru. Judges and magistrates mentioned would not be spared, he said, adding: "Those in the Kenyan judiciary tainted with corruption and affected by the report will soon find no where to hide, but those who are clean need not worry about their fate or look behind their shoulders," the CJ warned. The committee, formed on March 19, was set up to look into allegations of bribery in the judiciary. "Justice in the country must roll down like a river and integrity among members of the Kenyan Judiciary flow like a never failing stream," he said. The public would soon have confidence and hope in the judiciary, which had been eroded over the years. Mr. Justice Gicheru who was chairing a Court of Appeal session at the Nyeri law courts, said the judiciary had for many years failed Kenyans and promised to reform it with government support. "For quite sometime, the administration of justice Kenyans have experienced has made no difference to their lives and has not only been of no significance to them, but has been viewed as a tool of oppression", he said. "We must stand up for justice and not just talk about it and God will bless our nation," he added.

Corruption had infiltrated the country and almost led to its disintegration, he said, adding that he was optimistic the government would win the war on the vice. At the same time, a Court of Appeal Judge Mr. Justice Richard Kwach, warned magistrates against airing their grievances against the judiciary and the Chief Justice through the media. He warned magistrates against spreading anonymous propaganda, which he termed cheap. Problems could only be solved if aggrieved parties engaged in dialogue, he said, adding: "Talk to the Chief Justice and I can assure you he will be receptive," he said. The judge was reacting to complaints against the Chief Justice by some magistrates in Nairobi, who claimed he did not have time to listen to them or the court clerks. The Law Society of Kenya Mt Kenya branch chairman, Mr. A. J. Kariuki, urged the Federation of Women Lawyers, the International Commission of Jurists and Kituo Cha Sheria to open regional offices in the area. He challenged the Chief Justice to issue guidelines on how to determine a pauper deserving legal aid. "Until a new system is established, the court is the only institution which should determine who is genuinely a pauper and therefore deserving legal aid," he said.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Cyrus Kinyungu, 6 May 2003

Rejecting the Collective Guilt of Corruption

I reject being constantly labeled by the international community as an accomplice or accessory of a collective guilt of corruption, fraud and related obscenities in Nigeria. I refuse to be conscripted as part of that fashionable column in our public offices and their famished defenders who decline to be investigated for alleged criminalities while they sit in our legislative assemblies and purport to make laws for peace, order and good governance. It is therefore sad being labeled as corrupt by the international community because of one's fortune and privilege of being a Nigerian, when not criminally responsible for any corrupt or fraudulent act perpetrated by some incurable reprobates and addicts of sleaze who vehemently resist integrity, transparency and accountability. This collective conviction is the saddest because the innocent is not arraigned or heard in defence before conviction by association or nationality. But the world is now a global village. A nation is expected to keep its borders in tune with the laws, obligations and expectations of the international community. The reason why terrorism, drugs trafficking, prostitution, child labour, corruption now have certain locations associated with them. Though a few individuals in most cases engage in these crimes, they soon become so powerful that they overwhelm the government and its due process as was the case in Columbia, Peru, Italy, Pakistan, Indonesia, etc. Nationals of such countries are treated with caution.

Now, such nationals are held in strict liability in transactions because a heavy onus is placed on the national to prove his innocence and integrity in the crimes with which his country is associated. The question is whether Nigeria and its public office holders, have disproved this collective guilt of corruption? Has the Senate in its impunitive rascality and legislative lawlessness proved our innocence? Since the inception of the present administration, there have been spates of allegations of corruption, fraud and misappropriations in the National Assembly. Some of these were substantiated and established in the Kuta Reports. The indictees have since been 'forgiven'. The Lower Chamber outrightly refused being investigated. When allegation of further fraud was lodged against the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and when the much maligned and the over-blackmailed anti-corruption agency set out to investigate, all hell broke loose. The Senate swore to scrap the agency citing witch-hunting and intimidation from the Executive, while sweeping under the carpet the potent allegations of corruption and fraud in its chambers.

A Jamaican writer and friend recently asked with bewildered anger why are Nigerians corrupt within and without their country? He also was interested in knowing the uncanny nonchalance, boldness in these species? Why is it that when accused of misdeed or error, a Nigerian violently evades that query but cites and whips up political, tribal, religious sentiments and soon envelopes the question? In my shocked bitterness, I said the questions are not answerable but must be recouched in these forms: Why are some Nigerians corrupt? Why is corruption rife in Nigeria? What oils, sustains or nurtures graft in Nigeria? With such recouching, the response becomes easy, fair and better served, because corruption occurs in all communities no matter how negligible irrespective of race, colour, creed or domicile. Even the supernatural and metaphysical experience corruption, the reason that cureless master of reprobates Lucifer, continues to parade remarkable queues of converts and the damned.

They are available in our executive chambers, law houses, the Bench and in the streets. Our general reputation comes again under close scrutiny especially as the civilized countries get together more than ever before organized crimes like corruption, while in Nigeria, the Senate is desperate to repeal and indirectly scrap the Anti-Graft Law because certain members of the Chambers are under investigation. This further indicts the nation's collective guilt of corruption. But the incorruptible quite nauseated with these grave dimensions should resist these indictment and the legislative terrorism of the Senate. The Patriot must constantly search for the light to douse the infamous impression that Nigeria and its nationals are matchless in greed and corruption. The public reaction must be revealed not by the responses in the media, but by dramatic outpourings at the market place, places of worship, community centers, work places, streets etc. that are yet patches of honesty, transparency and integrity in our general fabric. The common man remains the principal victim of corruption. The high up pretends not to recognize the nature of his vulnerability as the supposedly unseen enemy - corruption breeds pen and armed robbery, destruction of infrastructures, hunger, ignorance, violence, tribal ethnic and religious conflicts etc. Yet the proponents of corruption wail their defiance of the obvious.

From Daily Times of Nigeria, Nigeria, by Abbia Udofia, 7 May 2003

Ghana's Anti-corruption Crusade

Ghana set an example which we want a newly-elected government under President Obasanjo to follow. In a rice scheme scam, the Ghanaian government has successfully prosecuted and got convicted two former ministers, a senior civil servant and a foreigner for their roles in the $20 million rice project which had left Ghana with a $20 million debt and no rice. The foreigner in addition to bagging a jail term was also ordered to refund $20 million. By this measure, Ghana has served a notice to all public office holders that they will be called to account for their misdeeds in office. Some might cynically point out that those probed, prosecuted and convicted were officials who served under former President Jerry Rawlings. It is still valid to give credit to the existing government for having the will to dig into the past to punish those who have engaged in self-enrichment involving economic sabotage. The current Ghanaian government will itself leave office one day and its officials must realise that a precedent has been established for punishing those who while serving a government and believing they are sacred cows will become subject of prosecution when they lose the protection of the offices they hold. For President Obasanjo and Nigeria, the lesson in all these lies in the need to revisit so many scams which were perpetrated by people in high office in the past as well as some of his own appointees who might have been fraudulent. It is vital that he should include his own appointees to avoid the charge of witch-hunting political opponents.

The place to start is to visit the list of external loans which by 1996 had amounted to N1 trillion. According to a Minister of National Planning at the time, 18% of the loan had been drawn down for projects that were never started at all. That means N180 billion which disappeared into private pockets for which other Nigerians were required to pay. In many instances these scams were perpetrated in collusion with foreigners; some of whom might still be alive, carrying on business in Nigeria and planning new schemes. Another 36% of the loans went for projects that were started and abandoned mostly after the contractors have collected 10% or more in down payments. That means another 360 billion could be traced and the culprits brought to book. There is also NNPC, which has been the subject of probes whose reports have not been released and nobody has been punished. There is the Petroleum Special Trust Fund, PTF, NAFCON; Nigeria Airways; Ajaokuta Steel; NITEL; NEPA; NPA and the outgoing National Assembly. Granted the government cannot correct all the wrongs of the past and with only four years at its disposal and so much to do; it can only scratch the surface, but, even a few former officials being hauled off to jail after prosecution and conviction is bound to have a salutary effect on the activities of government officials and check the wanton looting that has characterised government at all levels since the First Republic.

From Vanguard, Nigeria, 7 May 2003

Corruption: PM Wants Fight Strategies Reinforced

Yaoundé - Following is a statement issued at the end of a session of the Anti-corruption Ad hoc committee held yesterday. "The Prime Minister, Head of Government and Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee to Fight Against Corruption, (yesterday) Wednesday, 7 May 2003 as from 11 am in the Prime Minister's Office, chaired a meeting of the committee. The agenda of the meeting comprised the statements of the Ministers of Finance and the Budget, National Education, and Town Planning and Housing on the measures taken to implement the Government Anti-Corruption Plan in their respective ministries. The participants also listened to a presentation by the Chairman of the Anti-Corruption Observatory pertaining to the functioning of the Ministerial Anti-Corruption Units. Following the enriching and deep-seated discussions ensuing from the various statements, Committee members noted with satisfaction that the measures taken by the various State services to combat corruption in their respective sectors were being implemented satisfactorily.

They pointed out some shortcomings in the process, owing mainly to the difficult take-off, and recommended firm measures to further encourage everyone in the fight against this phenomenon. In particular, the Prime Minister prescribed the under-mentioned measures: - expedite studies on the simplification of the land certificate procedure; - introduce in school curricula, lessons on ethics, good governance and the fight against corruption; - institute a common framework for all anti-corruption bodies for informing the public on their activities; - strengthen the means of action of certain Anti-Corruption units, notably through the publication of a news bulletin by the observatory; - within the context of this fight, systematically publish final sanctions meted out against government workers and users of public services."

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Emmanuel Nganou Djoumessi, 8 May 2003

Accra's Anti-Corruption Crusade

Ghana set an example which we want a newly-elected government under President Obasanjo to follow. In a rice scheme scam, the Ghanaian government has successfully prosecuted and got convicted two former ministers, a senior civil servant and a foreigner for their roles in the $20 million rice project which had left Ghana with a $20 million debt and no rice. The foreigner in addition to bagging a jail term was also ordered to refund $20 million. By this measure, Ghana has served a notice to all public office holders that they will be called to account for their misdeeds in office. Some might cynically point out that those probed, prosecuted and convicted were officials who served under former President Jerry Rawlings. It is still valid to give credit to the existing government for having the will to dig into the past to punish those who have engaged in self-enrichment involving economic sabotage. The current Ghanaian government will itself leave office one day and its officials must realise that a precedent has been established for punishing those who while serving a government and believing they are sacred cows will become subject of prosecution when they lose the protection of the offices they hold.

For President Obasanjo and Nigeria, the lesson in all these lies in the need to revisit so many scams which were perpetrated by people in high office in the past as well as some of his own appointees who might have been fraudulent. It is vital that he should include his own appointees to avoid the charge of witch-hunting political opponents. The place to start is to visit the list of external loans which by 1996 had amounted to N1 trillion. According to a Minister of National Planning at the time, 18% of the loan had been drawn down for projects that were never started at all. That means N180 billion which disappeared into private pockets for which other Nigerians were required to pay. In many instances these scams were perpetrated in collusion with foreigners; some of whom might still be alive, carrying on business in Nigeria and planning new schemes.

Another 36% of the loans went for projects that were started and abandoned mostly after the contractors have collected 10% or more in down payments. That means another 360 billion could be traced and the culprits brought to book. There is also NNPC, which has been the subject of probes whose reports have not been released and nobody has been punished. There is the Petroleum Special Trust Fund, PTF, NAFCON; Nigeria Airways; Ajaokuta Steel; NITEL; NEPA; NPA and the outgoing National Assembly. Granted the government cannot correct all the wrongs of the past and with only four years at its disposal and so much to do; it can only scratch the surface, but, even a few former officials being hauled off to jail after prosecution and conviction is bound to have a salutary effect on the activities of government officials and check the wanton looting that has characterised government at all levels since the First Republic.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 8 May 2003

Experts Discuss Information, Good Governance

Addis Ababa - Development information experts from 53 African countries gathered here this week for the third meeting of the Committee on Development Information (CODI III) to discuss the link between development information and good governance. According to the ECA communication team, CODI is one of the seven technical committees established by the UNECA's conference of ministers in May 1997 with the mandate of ensuring the implementation of the African Information Society Initiative (AISI) so as to promote the growth of an information society in Africa, advise on measures to improve all aspects of statistical development of member states and to advise the building, maintenance and dissemination of regional development databases, including bibliographic, textual and spatial databases. "This year's theme, "Information and Governance," was in recognition of the consensus that Africa's development challenges cannot be achieved in the absence of good governance," the ECA said.

"Since good governance requires transparency and community participation in the decision process," says Karima Bounemra Ben Soltane, Director, ECA development information services division, "it is important that appropriate data be collected, maintained, processed into information and made easily accessible to the general citizenry." The meeting highlighted the link between development information and the on-going discourse on governance in Africa and recommended strategies for providing information for good governance to member states, ECA and its partner organizations. Participants have also reviewed progress made in the implementation of the recommendations of CODI II. CODI meets every two years and conducts technical deliberations under three subcommittees, the sub-committee on Information and Communications Technologies (ICT), statistics and on geoinformation. CODI I and CODI II were also held here in July 1999 and December 2001 under the theme of Harnessing Information for Development and Development Information for Decision Making respectively, it was learnt.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 16 May 2003

Governance As Per Female Anatomy

Johannesberg - Used in a creative manner, the words 'vagina' and 'in and out' need not necessarily imply sex. Or so says Manelisi Wolela, following an uproar because a government employee used these metaphors in an internal work session at the Eastern Cape government. The words, however, were not used during crude sex talk, but to illustrate the workings of the government structure, says a report in News24.com. Provincial general manager Nomaxabiso Mahlawe compared the communication process to the vagina, because it is the organ where information goes 'in and out.' According to the report, the Fallopian tubes represent the decision-making process, the womb refers to the co-operation between the various departments, while the placenta explains the roles of the various interest groups. The policy is then introduced to deliver services to citizens, similar to when a woman gives birth.

From Sify, India, 17 May 2003

Governance in Africa Under Reflection - Dr. Salih Outlines Challenges

Dr. Mohamed Salih of the Institute of Social Studies in the Hague, has blamed the current debate on better governnance for Africa on the democratic and associational revolution that have swept across Africa, especially starting from the last two decades of the 20th century. In his keynote address at the third meeting of the Committee on Development Information(CODI III) of the Economic Commission of Africa, Dr. Salih noted the successful management of political transition from military rule, military socialism and ethno nationalist leadership to competitive multiparty democracies, despite the difficulties and setbacks. Opening the meeting last week Monday at the United Nations Conference Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with more than 300 communication experts from around Africa in Attendance, Dr. Salih said with the broad institution of democratic goverments across Africa, there have been a reduction in the number of persons getting persecuted or harassed for differing with governments, and also noted that a lesser number of countries are getting condemned for human rights abuses.

According to a dispatch from Ethiopia, Dr. Salih also noted that interest and concern about democratic governance have been derived from the need to improve the quality of service to the people, taking into account the following: the rapid accumulation of budget deficits in states; the shift towards market driven economies, as opposed to government directed economies; the advance of globalization, within the context that domestic policies being in line with global economic and environmental standards, especially as the world as become increasingly interdependent. Dr. Salih named other issues of concern as fear of state failure, and social change & increasing complexity. He then named the challenges to the mutual growth andinformation and governance as weak institutional and infrastructure capabilities, limited information technology training efforts in most African countries; and the limited awareness of the communities to ICTS.

Dr. Salih also acknowledged the complexity of the relationship between information, governance and the public sphere, but noted that this can be strengthened only when the overall political context within which they interact is governed by the ethos and core values of democratic governance. He added that "engaging the public sphere in this relationship preludes to the involvement of society in order to make government worthy of the people's trust. The keynote address was later discussed by Dr. Habib Sy, Director of Transparency Aid in Senegal, Dr. Andre Bassole from Burkina Faso and Mr. John Githongo, Advisor to President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya.

From EU Observer, Belgium, by K.A. Kamara, 21 May 2003

New Chairman Pledges to Get Sage Governance in Line

Johannesburg - ABSA's chairman Danie Cronje, who has replaced Louis Shill as chairman of Sage Group, has pledged to pull the "new" Sage in line with SA's corporate governance practices. Shill announced his resignation as executive chairman on April 9 as Sage threw in the towel on an expensive attempt to launch a foreign operation. He founded Sage in 1969, and was perceived as a dominant personality within the group, particularly as it had no CEO position until April. However, the second King report on corporate governance said the chairman of a company should "preferably" be an independent nonexecutive director. Cronje's appointment as nonexecutive chairman, along with the hiring of former Old Mutual MD Garth Griffin as Sage CEO, is part of a revamp that will align the group better with corporate governance standards. Absa previously held 15% in Sage, which was boosted to 21% last month as the bank took up part of Sage's R350m rights offer. However, Shill was widely seen as running Sage. Cronje said yesterday he saw his new Sage position as "far more of a nonexecutive post" than that of Shill. "With the appointment of Garth Griffin as CEO, I will look to facilitate this new phase in Sage, bringing it into line with corporate governance norms," he said. Although Shill was now a nonexecutive director at Sage, concerns have been raised about this shift in his responsibilities. CA Ratings governance expert Charl Kocks says a "cooling off" period after an executive takes up a nonexecutive position is often the best approach, if only to placate concerns that he no longer influences the board.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Rob Rose, 20 May 2003

 

Let Lawyers Have Say on Ethics Code

Putrajaya - The new Code of Ethics for Judges which is being formulated by the Chief Justice should take into consideration the views of the Bar Council, especially in matters relating to the social interaction of judges and lawyers. Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Rais Yatim said that for the Code of Ethics to be truly reflective of the intention, views and inputs of concerned parties, such as the Bar Council's opinions must also be included. "It would be useful for a member of the Bar Council to be allowed to peruse and study some of the ethics because the performance of judges is substantially connected with legal work, legal submissions, court work and the various phases of interaction between lawyers and judges. "This could be an aspect of the ethics which must be truly and objectively hatched out. "The question of social association between judges and lawyers, judges and clients of lawyers and the availability of judges ...these are some of the issues to be discussed by the Chief Justice and the Bar Council and to be made known to the lawyers as well. "It is not realistic, I think , for the Chief Justice to be only intimate with the Law Division here (at the ministry) without going through the lawyers themselves.

So, my suggestion is, the Bar Council must also be made a party to some of the finer points," Rais said. Speaking at a Press conference in his office here after witnessing the handing over of duty by retiring Law Division director-general Datin Fauziah Ramli to her successor Yaacob Hussin, Rais said the Code of Ethics should also include sufficient powers for the Chief Justice to act effectively upon any cases of misconduct. "I cannot prescribe for him what powers should be recommended but he should use his good office to determine what kind of discplinary procedures that have to be invoked so that the service is streamlined with the desire for the future to have a well-discplined, productive, efficient and fair set of judges." He said that since Malaysia was a developing nation which has progressed in almost every sector, it was natural for the people to demand an equivalent service from all sectors, including the judiciary.

Rais also dismissed as fiction, the notion that judges or the judiciary cannot be constructively criticised. "Just because the judges are free doesn't mean that there is no need for rules and regulations, that is fiction ...it is not true, actually they too have a responsibility and a system that should be understood by the public. "So, from now on, even the judiciary must be transparent and open, and all directives of the Chief Justice must be adhered to," he stressed. Commenting on a front-page article in a leading Malay daily today, Rais who was unhappy with the sensationalised presentation of the article chided the newspaper for its rhetorics. "I receive complaints from time to time and I often forward these complaints to the Chief Justice. The newspaper questioned what I'm doing ...that is what I've been doing, whatever complaint that I receive pertaining to the judiciary or the judges, I forward it to the Chief Justice. "Maybe the newspaper is unaware that to handle shortcomings concerning the service of judges is not similar to the Education Minister acting upon problems concerning teachers. They (judges) have a certain level of decorum and aspects which others cannot intervene except for the Chief Justice himself."

From New Straits Times, Malaysia, 30 April 2003

Confidence Up But So Is Corruption, Says Survey

Cautious outlook as Asean rise expected - Despite confidence in an Asian recovery, American executives in Asean have become more concerned about doing business in Thailand, with the Sars outbreak and rising corruption topping the list, according to an American Chamber of Commerce survey. "Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) will have knocked them back temporarily, but we see an intention to expand ultimately," said Judy Benn, an executive of the chamber in Thailand. The survey of all six American chambers in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, showed a "fundamental sense of confidence in Asia's capability" as increasingly important in the global economy. "Our members have revised their estimates of the recovery, but they hold their strong opinions about the contribution that Asian markets will make to the global economy over the coming two years," Mrs. Benn said. It is the second annual survey of the Association of South East Asian Nations, with all six chambers representing an estimated US$35 billion (about 1.49 trillion baht) in regional investments.

Mrs. Benn said 70% of American senior managers believed Asia's contribution to their companies' global revenue would increase in the next two years. Three-quarters believe their companies will grow this year while 18%, the same as last year, anticipate a reduction. It showed 65% expected Asia to recover by the middle of next year, with 69% anticipating a rebound in the global economy by the same time, and 91% expecting a global recovery by end of next year. Members of the chamber in Vietnam (91%) and Thailand (76%) were the most optimistic in the region, expecting significant expansion. While members in Thailand were generally more satisfied with the local business climate than last year, corruption remains a key factor affecting business. More than 80% said it was a top concern in conducting business in Thailand, a slight increase from last year. "Corruption continues to be a major concern for our members region-wide, with dissatisfaction levels moving up 11% to 68%," Mrs. Benn said. "This has a significant effect on investment decisions and is therefore a vital competitiveness issue." Other areas of concern were down by half, including laws and regulations. The largest improvements in levels of concern were seen in stable government and political systems, infrastructure, local protectionism and tax structure.

From Bangkok Post, Thailand, 6 May 2003

International Group to Help CIS Fight Corruption

Almaty - The international anti-corruption organization Transparency International (TI) plans to set up centers in former Soviet states to collect information on anti-corruption measures in various countries, the TI chief said on Tuesday. Kazakhstan ranks 88th in the TI's 102-entry Corruption Perceptions Index, which lists in ascending order how corrupt a country's population believes its homeland to be. Peter Eigen, chairman of the TI board of directors, told a news conference in Almaty that it is possible to combat corruption even in countries where the population is used to this evil. He said civil society can beat corruption. He said it is most important to make a country's population aware of corruption in the country if it exists. He also said there exists awareness of the problem in Kazakhstan today. Eigen said TI is drafting a code of conduct for companies. In the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Moldova and Azerbaijan are below Kazakhstan in the index, Ukraine is 85th, Russia 71st and Uzbekistan 68th.

From Interfax, Kazakhstan, 7 May 2003

Main Risk for Investment in Kazakhstan Is Corruption - Human Rights Activist

Almaty. - Head of the Kazakh Office of the International Bureau for Human Rights and Respect for Law Yevgeny Zhovtis has called corruption and disrespect for the law the main factors limiting investment in Kazakhstan. "The high degree of corruption, mistrust of the judiciary, and the inability to defend one's rights in court are sufficiently serious risks for an investor," he said at a press conference in Almaty on Wednesday. The activist believes the imperfect judicial system is the main factor that scares investors away from small- and medium-sized companies, since large ones "are given guarantees from the political elite."

From Interfax, Kazakhstan, 8 May 2003

Korean Firms Rank Second in Asian Governance Poll

Korea has edged out its rival economies, such as Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, to emerge as the top scorer in the latest corporate governance poll by CLSA Emerging Markets and the Asian Corporate Governance Association. In the CLSA and ACGA surveys, conducted earlier this month, Korean companies obtained an average score of 70.8 out of 100 for corporate governance, the second highest figure in Asia, except Japan, the organizations said. Ranked just next to Korea was Singapore with an average score of 69.5, with Hong Kong coming in the fourth place with 65.9, they said. Malaysia scored 65, followed by India (64.8), Thailand (60.2), Taiwan (58.7), China (57.4), Indonesia (43) and the Philippines (39.8), according to the annual survey. The survey scores are based on company performance in seven areas - discipline, transparency, independence, accountability, responsibility, fairness and social responsibility. One company that disappeared from last year's report was back this year- Samsung Electronics. In 2001, Samsung had received a score of 44.1 points, below the Korean average of 45.2. This year, the Samsung Group flagship was listed in the top 25 percent of corporate-governance-friendly companies in Korea. This year, CLSA says Samsung "had demonstrated one of the most improved corporate governance practices in Korea" and "offers a level of access unrivaled in Korea." It praised measures such as making a majority of company directors independent and arranging detailed quarterly conference calls with investors.

As seen in the survey results, Korea's leading conglomerates are in the midst of implementing market-friendly reform measures, complying with President Roh Moo-hyun's bid to heighten corporate management transparency and accountability. In one example, the LG Group has unveiled a surprise move to dismantle its controversial "corporate restructuring office." Coming on the heels of a separate trailblazing move to launch the nation's first holding company March 1, LG's decision to dissolve its Office for Corporate Restructuring, which has acted as a virtual control tower for groupwide decision-making, will likely pave the ground for greater managerial independence for individual affiliates. Yielding to President Roh's get-tough reform policy, top conglomerates have also agreed to accept the centerpiece of his corporate overhauls - class action suit in the securities field. A joint statement released by the nation's five largest business organizations said that local companies will consent to the government's bid to legislate securities-related class action suit system this year on condition countermeasures are devised to deter abuses. A class action suit against a company permits all investors equal compensation whenever one of them wins a legal battle against a concern or manager for irregular actions that caused them to suffer financial losses. The system has long been seen as a vital vehicle to fix the chaebol's irregularities.

New reform policy - Since his inauguration in late February, President Roh has repeatedly stressed his determination for strong chaebol reforms, expressing deep concerns over the increasing concentration of economic powers in a few top conglomerates and their lack of managerial transparency. "Despite repeated reform pledges, some conglomerates have yet to part with unsound practices, such as fraudulent accounting, stock manipulation and irregular wealth succession," said Roh in a recent meeting with chaebol leaders. "Moreover, almost all valuable enterprises in Korea belong to the top-four groups, raising concerns over concentration of economic powers and aggravating social disintegration." He also vowed to drastically overhaul the current taxation systems in a bid to identify all possible taxable incomes, particularly in the process of the chaebol-owner family's wealth inheritance. "Some improvements have been made in terms of transparency in the chaebol's governance and ownership structures, but they still fall far short of foreign investors' expectations," Roh argued. "False disclosures, fraudulent accounting, stock price manipulation and opaque wealth successions are still widespread in the local business circles. Even worse, excessive concentration of economic powers in the chaebol has been deterring social and class integration." In return for tougher taxes on unearned incomes, the new government will consider lowering corporate tax rates, he said. "Even if the economy further worsens, the Roh government will not consider deregulations for the chaebol. Instead, its drive for corporate transparency and corruption-free management would further accelerate," said an aide for Roh.

Kim Jin-pyo, deputy prime minister and minister of finance and economy, also said that the government will now push through its corporate reform policies in a "more consistent, predictable and market-friendly manner." Closer cooperation On top of the class action suit, local business leaders have also asked the labor circles to redouble efforts for industrial peace, stressing the need to tide over the economic slump, particularly in the face of mounting geopolitical uncertainties. In addition, they called for closer economic and political ties with the United States, with Seoul clarifying its stance on the North Korean nuclear standoff. "Businesses decided to conditionally embrace the class action suit system to help improve transparency and accountability in corporate governance and management," said a recent statement signed by the five leading business organizations, including the Federation of Korean Industries and the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Recently, a separate statement from the five organs pledged a willingness to accept the five-day workweek system and other government-imposed reform tasks. Amid concerns over a fresh economic crisis, the government and local business circles have agreed to jointly push for seven new major policy goals, including the construction of Northeast Asian business hubs in Korea.

The other six policy tasks included intensive development of provincial industries, colleges and culture; exploitation of new growth engines; stimulation of exports and investments; drastic deregulations for local firms; cooperative labor-management relations; transparent corporate management and greater cooperation between large companies and small venture firms. The agreement was reached during a meeting between Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy Yoon Jin-sik and heads of the nation's five largest economic organizations, including the KCCI. "In a bid to help revitalize the slumping economy, I and the local business leaders agreed to hold a regular coordination meeting every month," said Minister Yoon after the meeting. "We also agreed to set up task forces on each of the seven policy goals, starting from this month. The task forces, made up of both government officials and private business executives, would make reports to the Cabinet and economic policy coordination meetings on such subjects as policy directions and the ways to achieve national objectives." In particular, the business circles will try to build up trust between management and labor through various dialogue channels. They also hope to firmly establish transparent personnel and worker systems as well as guidelines for solving labor disputes, the minister said.

Responding to the mounting fears in the local business community of a get-tough chaebol policy by the new administration, President Roh has drawn a clear line between the chaebol and industrial conglomerates. "I think the chaebol and the industrial conglomerates should be treated differently," Roh once said. "Robust economic and industrial activities by the conglomerates are vital to the economy. The incoming government will only try to fix irregularities associated with the chaebol." Flexible approach Roh's remarks appear to indicate that he will not let his campaign pledges of 'reforms and changes' discourage entrepreneurship, viewing the industrial conglomerates as the main engine for the recovery of the slumping Korean economy, according to private and state economists. "Roh may have sent signals that he will take a tough stance against the chaebol's irregular governance structures and market-destroying management practices. At the same time, however, he suggested that his government will extend full support for fair and sound business activities," said an economist at the Korea Economic Research Institute. Keenly aware of the rising sense of crisis among leading business groups, economists familiar with Roh's economic philosophy said that all industrial conglomerates in Korea will not be targeted for chaebol reforms by a single yardstick.

"Contrary to the speculation, Roh may stick to a neutral stance towards the chaebol, staying away from an extraordinary hard or friendly line," said a college professor, who has acted as one of the economic advisors for Roh. "Strictly complying with market economy principles, Roh will encourage entrepreneurship yet clamp down on irregular corporate practices." In addition, a clearer commitment to market economy will help boost Roh's campaign promise to redouble government efforts to turn Korea into a Northeast Asian business hub, he explained. Roh's assurance of the market principles has been welcomed by domestic business leaders. Roh has emphasized a continued economic growth as a means to promote equal distribution of wealth. That means the philosophies of Roh and domestic conglomerates are identical, said FKI officials. With regard to the outlook for Roh's bid to stamp out the chaebol's irregularities, meanwhile, the economists said that his reform policies are expected to focus on management transparency and the overhaul of the chaebol's problematic governance structures. In light of his strong belief in fair distribution and promotion of public interest, Roh is likely to toughen regulations on the chaebol's non-core equity investments and intra-group investments and debt guarantees.

From Korea Herald, Korea, by Yoo Cheong-mo (cmyoo@koreaherald.co.kr), 12 May 2003

ACB Plans Music Video on Corruption

Hyderabad - The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is planning to come out with a music video on how to combat corruption. The video will be made by well-known film-maker Mani Shankar. The ACB has been trying to effect some changes in the conventional methods of checking corruption in the recent past. Fighting corruption is the responsibility of every citizen and the ACB can function effectively only if people cooperate with the department, ACB directorgeneral A K Mohanty told The Times of India. The ACB has decided to create awareness among the people about the corrupt practices of government servants through the video. The Bureau has taken up a wide publicity campaign in this regard. Pamphlets containing the telephone numbers of ACB officials are being distributed at all government offices in the state, he said. Mani Shankar had been chosen to prepare the video because of his expertise. Earlier, he produced two short films for the police department. The two films-Nee Kosamand O Pasivada Tirigi Raa-have helped in bringing back several naxalites to the mainstream. "The quality of the films was highly impressive due to which we have decided to entrust the job to him", Mohanty said. Mani Shankar had quoted an expense of Rs 25 lakh and the proposal has been sent to the information and public relations department, he added.

From Times of India, India, 12 May 2003

Prosecutors Face Probe Over Corruption

The Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office said yesterday that an investigation was under way over allegations that some 20 incumbent prosecutors had been contacted by a lobbyist jailed on fraud charges. The investigation was launched last month after police found names and phone numbers of prosecutors on a mobile phone carried by the lobbyist, the office said. The lobbyist, identified only by his family name Park, was arrest for receiving 30 million won from the family of a criminal suspect in return for a promise to lobby for his release. Park had contacted prosecutors to ask for favorable treatment for the accused after obtaining a list of prosecutors dealing with criminal cases, according to police. It is unknown whether any of the prosecutors involved received money from Park or tried to help the suspect, the office said. Prosecution investigators said it is studying conversation records between Park and the prosecutors after receiving them from a telephone company. jj@koreatimes.co.kr

From Korea Times, Korea, by Na Jeong-ju, 14 May 2003

Bangladesh Tackles Corruption

The Bangladeshi Government has, for the first time, announced plans to set up an independent anti-corruption commission. It says the new authority will be able to help launch impartial inquiries into allegations of corruption against anyone - including government ministers. Bangladesh has been listed as one of the world's most corrupt countries by an independent monitoring group. The government promised to tackle the problem when it was elected in 2001. With its reputation for high levels of corruption, Monday's announcement is significant. In principle, it will mean politicians, civil servants, military leaders and police will all be held accountable if they commit corruption. Approval soon Most of the country's top politicians, including the prime minister and opposition leader, have - over the course of their careers - been accused of corruption, but few have been convicted.

Although a date for the commission's formation is still to be determined, ministers insist its creation will soon be approved by parliament. Bangladesh already has a bureau of anti-corruption, but it is widely regarded as toothless and not genuinely impartial. The government says it is fulfilling one of its main election manifesto commitments by deciding to go ahead with the commission. Critics of the scheme say the announcement may be connected with an important meeting this weekend between the government and international donors. One of their key demands is that Bangladesh introduces measures to promote better governance. But ministers say their aim is to raise Bangladesh's position in the index of corrupt countries compiled by the monitoring group, Transparency International. For the last two years, the country has finished bottom of the list.

From BBC, UK, by Alistair Lawson, 13 May 2003

Can Crooks Improve Governance?

We have always regarded our businessmen as crooks, and foreign companies as more trustworthy, warts and all. The stock markets have always given foreign companies higher valuations than comparable Indian ones, believing that foreign companies are less likely to cheat. Should this perception change after mind-boggling corporate scandals involving the biggest multinationals and investment banks of the world? Enron, Arthur Anderson, and WorldCom have gone bust after revelations of skullduggery. The latest scandal involves the biggest firms of Wall Street, which produced reams of bogus research to trap ordinary investors into buying shares of dodgy companies whose new issues they were managing for a fat fees. A top analyst of a Wall Street firm called a company POS (piece of shit) in an internal memo, yet later recommended it to investors as an excellent buy. Between 1999 and 2002, two firms belonging to JP Morgan Securities made payments of $1.3 million to other banks to write bogus reports praising new issues that they underwrote. US Bankcorp Pipar Jaffray, Morgan Stanley, Bear Stearns and UBS Warburg made similar dirty deals. US authorities investigated the 10 biggest Wall Street firms. The Terrible Ten have now settled out of court, paying $1.4 billion. They have also signed a pact promising $432 million over five years for independent research, and stop dubious practices like bribing CEOs with shares in hot new issues. Two top analysts, Grubman and Blodget, have been barred from the securities business. This will not end wrong-doing. But the stars of Wall Street have, not for the first time, been pilloried and penalised.

They know they are in the public gaze, and that improves conscience and behaviour. What does this imply for India? No matter how crooked the top Wall street firms are, they can help improve governance in Indian markets. First, they will create pressures to improve operating conditions in India to global standards. Second, they will bring higher standards of governance because they will worry about being jailed for misgovernance in the US, whereas Indian firms have virtually no fear of being jailed by slow courts. Third, Wall Street firms bring additional competition, which benefits common investors. Until very recently, Indian stock markets were dicey places. Promoters of companies disappeared without trace after a public issue. Controlling families of companies siphoned profits off the books at the expense of ordinary shareholders. The Bombay Stock Exchange was replete with price-riggers and crooks who enriched themselves at the expense of investors. One-tenth of all share certificates were forged. The delivery of shares could take months. When foreign institutional investors (FIIs) entered India in the early 1990s, they said it was impossible to do much business in such an environment, and asked the government to upgrade this to global standards. They sought this for their own selfish ends, but the end result aided all investors. The National Stock Exchange came up as a world class rival to the Bombay Stock Exchange, with computerised trading that made price rigging through telephone calls impossible. Paper shares were dematerialised into electronic shares, ending forgery.

Delivery was tightened and expedited to happen two days after purchase. The Bombay Stock Exchange was forced to imitate the high standards of the National Stock Exchange to survive. The net result is that India today has one of the best and most modern stock exchanges in the developing world, Ketan Parekh notwithstanding. Second, FIIs have brought in higher standards of research, and forced companies to provide more pertinent information on a regular basis. Companies that fail to live up to their profit predictions are penalised heavily by sharp falls in their prices, a sea change from the bad old days. Finally, competition has improved governance. In the bad old days, the UTI dominated a thin, riggable market. The UTI could not dump wholesale the stock of any group no matter how crooked - there was too much political pressure. But the FIIs ended the quasi-monopoly of the UTI and brought in competition. Unlike the UTI, they dumped wholesale the shares of companies with suspect practices, whose prices crashed. And they paid premium prices for companies with a reputation for good governance. They did this for their own self-interest. Yet the result was that, for the first time, the stock market began to systematically reward promoters with good governance over promoters with political connections or the ability to rig markets. Many Indian companies still cook their books enthusiastically, but are easily recognised by the low price-earnings ratios the market gives them. What this shows is that competition, even between crooks and semi-crooks, can improve outcomes for ordinary investors. What FIIs sought was improved trading conditions for their narrow self-interest. Yet in the process they improved conditions for all investors, and helped push our stock markets to become among the best in Asia.

From Times of India, India, 17 May 2003

Prime Minister's Vision Of Good Governance

Islamabad - Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali said Sunday if there was transparency in day-to-day administration, no government, leader or bureaucrat could dare to take selfish or anti-people decisions, because he or she would at once be subject to accountability. He stated this in his special message to an English daily of Islamabad on the occasion of bringing out 20-page Special Supplement on Monday on Prime Minister's vision of good governance. The Supplement contains special reports, features, photographs and articles on Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali's way and mode of government with reference to good governance. The Prime Minister said if the press of Pakistan continued To focus on the issue of good governance, this vision could become reality sooner than expected. To describe in a few words what he means by good governance, He said "I believe that there should be no curtain of secrecy between the people and the government they have elected to run the country." Meritocracy, transparency, accountability and fairness should be the main features of governance. The Prime Minister said "I believe that from the point of view of the people, there are three objectives that any government in Pakistan should have in mind in order to deal with public problems successfully, or even adequately.

One, it should never give the impression of being all-knowing and autocratic. Two, it must never forget that it derives its strength from the masses and should strive to be as close to them as possible. Three, it should endevour to take the political opposition along with it on all issues of national importance." Jamali said he was a strong believer in moderation and in avoiding extremism and collision and that belief had always helped him in his private and public affairs. He was also convinced that in genuine politics there was no place for victimization of opponents or suppression of critical press. Quite apart from regular development plans for economic growth, Jamali said he was of the view that similar plans for social resurgence, for moral re-armament, for attaining harmony among the provinces and between various sections of the people and for making the establishment truly responsive to the aspirations of the masses were also necessary for all-round progress. He said "let me add that for me, in addition to my own views And ideas, constructive comments and healthy criticism from the press are a very useful guide to good governance." He extended good wishes to the newspaper, its Editor-in-Chief, Zahid Malik and its readers on this occasion.

From Pakistan News Service, Pakistan, 19 May 2003

Bangladesh Donors Tie Aid to Good Governance

Dhaka - Bangladesh's development partners have pledged performance-based financial support to the country's development efforts and advised the Government to improve law and order, governance and check corruption, at the two-day Bangladesh Development Forum (BDF) that concluded here earlier this week. Against the estimated requirement of $2.1 billions for implementing the growth strategy over next three years, the forum, in line with its changed strategy, refrained from making any commitment of financial assistance. However, the Bangladesh Finance Minister, M. Saifur Rahman, at a press conference later, said there would be no dearth of funds. "They (donors) have stated that there will be no fund crisis if we perform well.'' However, he was optimistic that foreign funds would be available since the development partners endorsed the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (I-PRSP), which he said was well-thought-out and a home-grown one. Mr. Saifur described corruption and the poor law and order situation as the two major roadblocks to development. Corruption is at the core of Bangladesh's development problems, development partners opined at the World Bank-sponsored consortium meeting. Last year, the Berlin-based Transparency International said Bangladesh, for the second time, finished at the bottom of the heap on an index of perceived public sector corruption. He added that the Government's success in the past 18 months on the economic front, including macroeconomic stability, growth, reserves, expenditure control, lowering budget and current account deficits had earned appreciation from the donor community.

From The Hindu, India, by Haroon Habib, 21 May 2003

[Anti-Corruption Conference] Justice Minister Confident of Forum's Success

Justice Minister Kang Kum-sil yesterday expressed confidence that the 2003 Seoul Conference will greatly contribute in enhancing transparency and rooting out corruption in South Korea as well as other countries around the world. "As this is the first time for the IACC and the Global Forum to be held together, the gathering has much significance,'' Kang said. She said the hosting of the two conferences will also have a positive effect in terms of diplomacy for South Korea as many high-ranking officials from around the world will be brought together in Seoul, boosting its image as a hub for the Northeast Asian region. "The Seoul Conference will upgrade the country's image as a whole, through expressing our conviction to tackle corruption to the world as well as showing our capacity to host such a major event,'' she said. Domestically, the conference will reaffirm the government's resolve to root out corrupt practices in all sectors of society, which has been pursued through many measures such as the creation of a code of ethics for public officials. Kang said while fighting corruption is one of the most basic tasks of a justice minister, along with protecting the public, the perception has not been such. "By covering more than 100 fields during the conference, the ministry will be able to significantly increase its skill at handling corruption cases,'' she said. The organizing committee set up for the Seoul Conference within the ministry will be transformed into a "anti-corruption preparatory task force'' to strengthen the ministry's role in fighting corruption at the end of the forum. jysoh@koreatimes.co.kr.

From Korea Times, South Korea, 22 May 2003

Media Council Urges Action Against Corruption

Anti-corruption campaigners in Papua New Guinea have renewed their call for the government to crack down on the misuse of public funds, which resulted in the near collapse of PNG's largest private sector superannuation scheme. The Media Council says anti-corruption activists will continue to remind the government of its responsibility to pursue those behind corruption linked to the National Provident Fund. The Council has urged government to pursue the recommendations of a commission of inquiry into the National Provident Fund which revealed high-level extortion, kickbacks and money laundering.

From GoAsiaPacific.com, Asia, 27 May 2003

Corruption in Asia Costs Up To 1/6 of GDP

Corruption has not always been perceived as having a negative impact upon development. In earlier decades, arguments were advanced that it could have beneficial effects, but nowadays, it can cost up to one sixth of a country's GDP in Asia, said Jak Jabes, director of Asian Development Bank's Governance and Regional Cooperation Division. Jabes told a conference Tuesday "except for Singapore, no country does well on subjective or objectives indices." Jabes believed governments pay between 20 percent and 100 percent more for goods and services due to corrupt procurement practices. Some have argues that corruption can advance economic efficiency by helping to restore artificial and administratively determined prices to market-clearing levels, as well as a useful redistributive role, transferring resources from wealthy individuals and corporations to those of more modest means. Some scholars have even argued that corruption is a natural stage of development, pointing that it was generally widespread in many advanced countries until recently.

Although there are instances when illicit acts can improve the economic rates of return, the bulk of the evidence indicates that corrupt actions typically generate far more costs than benefits, Jabes said. Corrupt practices can also result in scarce resources being squandered on uneconomical projects because of their potential to generate lucrative payoffs, and priority sectors such as education or health can suffer disproportionately, Jabes added. Many studies of the cost of corruption in individual cases paint a disturbing picture of resources lost, squandered, or devoted to suboptimal uses. An internal report of another Asian government found that over the past decade, state assets have fallen by more than $50 billion, primarily because corrupt officials have deliberately undervalued them in trading off big property stakes to private interests or to international investors in return for payoffs. In one South Asian country, recent government reports indicate that $50 million daily is misappropriated due to mismanagement and corruption. The Prime Minister stated publicly recently that the majority of bureaucrats and the administrative machinery from top to bottom are corrupt.

From United Press International, 27 May 2003

Anti-corruption Conference Opens

Campaigners are meeting in South Korea for a biennial conference aimed at pushing forward the fight against corruption. The meeting combines the 11th session of the biennial International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) and the Global Forum III, which attracts politicians, officials and academic experts in the field. Transparency International (TI), the international lobby group responsible for the meeting, will publish its annual report on corruption around the world at the meeting. The conference is expected to conclude with the unveiling of a set of Seoul Recommendations designed to be a benchmark for the fight against corruption. On the front line But TI is also using the get-together to honour five people - two posthumously - it sees as exemplars in fighting corruption. The five winners of its Integrity Award include Dr Dora Akunyili, who heads Nigeria's National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and has waged a determined fight against counterfeit drugs and doctored food. Also on the list is Samoa's former chief auditor and controller, Sua Rimoni Ah Chong, who identified 6 of 13 cabinet ministers as corrupt in 1994 and was then sacked by a committee including several of the ministers he had named.

Indian campaigner Anna Hazare (also known as Kisan Babu Rao) is on the list too, after 20 years of pushing for accountability in his home state of Maharashtra and causing the downfall on corruption charges of two government ministers. Gone but not forgotten The other two winners were killed while fighting corruption. One, Antonio Siba Siba Macuacua, was a Mozambican banker who was trying to clean up a mammoth banking scandal when he was thrown down the stairs of the bank's headquarters. His death has been linked to that of leading investigative journalist Carlos Cardoso, whose killers were convicted last year and whose trial implicated the son of Mozambique's president. The other is Algerian journalist Abelhai Beliardouh, who was kidnapped and tortured while investigating corruption in cross-border trade and later took his own life as a result. "In recognising Beliardouh and Macuacua," TI said, "TI hopes to send a strong message to the international community of the need to support those who, under the threat of violence and intimidation, continue to show integrity in their efforts to uncover injustice and corruption."

From Korea Herald, South Korea, 27 May 2003

Asian Nations' Growth Stunted by Corruption

A Sixth of the economic output of developing Asian economies is lost to corruption, according to an Asian Development Bank (ADB) governance expert. This would mean that, in the case of the Philippines, corruption ate up about P172 billion of the country's gross domestic product of P1.034 trillion last year. In a statement, ADB governance and regional cooperation division director Jak Jabes said goods and services procured by government are overpriced by 20 to 100 percent. Furthermore, he said meager government resources are wasted on uneconomical projects, which are pursued nonetheless because of the generous payoffs to corrupt officials. Allocation for priority sectors such as education and health suffer as a consequence, he added. Jabes said corruption also provides a disincentive to legitimate businesses, while encouraging substandard products and services.The governance expert said, excluding Singapore, no other Asian country has rated favorably in past surveys done on corrupt practices.Reacting to the ADB claim, Transprocure president Charlie Villaseñor admitted the Philippines is behind many countries in the area of procurement reforms.

This is notwithstanding the enactment early this year of a procurement law aimed at minimizing corrupt practices in the state procurement process. Villaseñor cited the recent bidding of the budget department's procurement system, which had been criticized by a number of interested parties. In light of criticisms lodged against its procurement system, he said government should establish a body of experts who would look into how best to improve the state purchasing process. Villaseñor said membership in the body, which should report directly to President Arroyo, should be composed of experts in the field of procurement practice. "We should look at people with solid track records not only in information technology, but in all aspects of the procurement process," he said. In this regard, he said government should look beyond the local scene in selecting members of the procurement body. The members of the proposed agency should have a grasp of international best practices, he added.

From Manila Times, Philippines, by Arnold S. Tenorio, 28 May 2003

 

Stanca Presents New Public Administration "Yellow Pages" Online

The "yellow pages" of services and information regarding local government will now be available online. They were presented today by Innovation and Technology Minister Lucio Stanca during inauguration of the 14th edition of the Public Administration Forum as a sort of manual to help citizens avoid the long lines at offices. This is the goal of the initiative: a step forward toward a more pronounced online presence that will allow citizens to access it anytime, anywhere. The guide, explained the Minister during a brief press conference - is aimed at all citizens: families, students, workers, professionals, and executives. It will be distributed at no cost to the 14,000 Italian post offices, in all 103 offices of the Chamber of Commerce, and in their 300 Unioncamere branches; in all the Italian cities with Ancitel networks and the 1,636 Sermetra consortium agencies, bodies that with companies like Omnitel helped to carry out a guide that will be available on the Ministry website at www.innovazione.gov.it at no cost thanks to sponsors - underlined Stanca - the guide was also contributed to by Master in Public and Institutional Communication 2003 students of La Sapienza University. The government - continued the Minister - has made "transformation of Public Administration and the relationship between citizens and the State a priority by using digital technology and a model of e-government that gives centrality back to citizens with the use of modern services and reduces bureaucratic road blocks".

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 5 May 2003

Government Official Claims There Is No Corruption in Bulgaria's Privatization

Sofia - Bulgaria's Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Vasilev said Tuesday the government had succeeded to quell corruption in the Balkan country's privatization. "The new government hasn't made any deal with a bidder, who didn't place the highest bid," Vasilev told a public discussion about crime, corruption and economy in Sofia. "As a minister of economy I haven't received any signals of corruption in the Privatization Agency in the past couple of years," Vasilev added. "Privatization and customs are the two main sources of corruption in Bulgaria," said Ognyan Shentov from the non-government Center for Studies of Democracy. He alleged that murky interests were involved in the abortive government attempts to sell state tobacco monopoly Bulgartabac and the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company earlier this year. "The Financial Intelligence Agency has signals and concrete evidence about attempts to legalize capitals with unclear origin through privatization deals in our country," the agency's chief Vasil Kirov told the participants in the discussion. He would not disclose details. International lenders and investors have repeatedly urged Bulgaria to take vehement steps against corruption, which is seen as a key challenge to the Balkan country. According to grassroots anti-corruption groups, the black market economy in Bulgaria accounts for more than 30% of the country's gross domestic product.

From Bulgarian News Network, Bulgaria, 27 May 2003

Main Sectors to Breed Corruption in Bulgaria Named

The administration, import and customs breed shadow economy according to a survey of Bulgaria's Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD). The shadow economy is shrinking, according to the centre's research, though it is still early days to say if this is a steady trend. According to the surveyors, international analysts estimated the size of Bulgarian shadow economy to EUR 5-6 B euros, between 30 and 36 percent of the GDP. CSD highlights as a positive change the fact that the potential buyers in recent privatization deals in Bulgaria were outside the world's shadow economy. At the same time, the stalled deals for telecom operator BTC and Bulgaria's tobacco monopoly Bulgartabac raised wide-spread suspicions.

From Novinite, Bulgaria, 28 May 2003

 

Executive Training Module Launched on Creating a High Performance Government

The Ministry of Finance and Industry and the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, have announced the launch of the second module of the UAE-Harvard Executive Programme's prestigious leadership training course, "Creating a High Performance Government: An Executive Programme for the UAE." The programme, which will be led by distinguished Harvard faculty members, will take place from May 21 to 30 at Harvard University and will be attended by senior officials from various ministries. "The UAE Government has spearheaded many initiatives to transform the UAE government into a high performance institution," said Musabeh Mohammed Al Suwaidi, the ministry's Assistant Undersecretary for IT, Administration and Finance. "This programme is an integral part of government innovation and provides an invaluable opportunity for government officials not only to enhance their leadership skills, but also to fortify the relationship between Harvard University and the UAE Government. "Andrea L. Anderson of the Middle East Initiative of the Kennedy School, said: "The UAE Government is taking a pro-active stance regarding creating a high performance government - responding to the need for change rather than reacting to issues - and we are very proud to be part of this transformation. "The Executive Programme is very much a partnership whereby we provide expertise and training while the participants offer us a unique opportunity to understand local governance issues," she added.

The UAE-Harvard Executive Programme was initiated last year and is aimed at enhancing the leadership and management skills of present and future government officials. It offers participants an opportunity to expand their knowledge on substantive issues of governance while acquiring the tools to enact effective management strategies. The second module of the programme addresses Public Sector Innovation and focuses on practical skill development in the areas of leadership, strategy, problem solving and decision-making. It will build on the work completed during the first module that was held last summer and attended by a representative group of over 20 UAE government officials. This module covered issues related to change, policy analysis, negotiation and organisational management. Module three of the programme focuses on Public Sector Skills Development, including executive skills in political and public management, human resource management, policy-making, organisational strategy, ethics and leadership. Module four, the final component of the programme, will address Public Sector Performance and Management, in addition to defining key benchmark indicators. "Throughout the programme we will build on earlier stages and consolidate the success of Module One," explained Anderson.

She noted that the first round of participants exhibited a profound commitment to managing change and were truly inspiring to the faculty. Anderson said: "To date, the programme has been a mutual learning experience with the university gaining an insight into regional governance 'best practices' while the participants were able to benefit from the opportunity provided to think creatively about managing change." The announcement coincided with the formal initiation of the UAE-John F Kennedy School Alumni Association of Harvard University which will provide a venue for graduates from Harvard programmes and Harvard affiliates in the UAE to share ideas, best practices and discuss how best to adapt lessons learned at Harvard to the local context. Dr Mohammed Emir Mavani, Advisor on Public Sector Reform to the Ministry, said: "Dr Mohammed Khalfan bin Kharbash, Minister of State for Financial and Industrial Affairs, will be the first Chairman of this Alumni Association. "The association will have its first meeting in the next couple of weeks. It is open to all Harvard graduate residents in the UAE irrespective of nationality and anyone seeking further information should contact the ministry."

From Gulf News, United Arab Emirates, 26 April 2003

 

Ehrlich Order Targets State Corruption

Md. workers must report any legal action, including arrests, divorce cases; 'Opening up a Pandora' box'; Governor's rules require notification of his lawyer as well as attorney general - Vowing to stamp out corruption in government, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. revised the way public misconduct cases are handled yesterday and ordered all state employees to tell their bosses of any arrests or other legal actions in which they are involved. The new rules, contained in an executive order signed by Ehrlich last week and released yesterday, require workers to inform their department heads of matters as personal as divorces or custody battles or as sensitive as seeking protective orders from abusive spouses. "If it is a legal proceeding, then it is a public proceeding," said Jervis S. Finney, Ehrlich's chief counsel and a former U.S. attorney. "The reason is to ensure that conduct is dealt with appropriately." The order also gives the governor greater authority over allegations of improper behavior by state employees, requiring complaints to be reported to the governor's lawyer in addition to the attorney general. Advocates for state workers said they could not immediately judge the effect of an order that appears to greatly expand the scope of employer oversight. But they promised to scrutinize its implementation. "It's opening up a Pandora's box that's never been opened before," said Zachary J. Ramsey, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 92.

Current policy and statute generally apply to criminal convictions, Ramsey said, not arrests. "You can be in a domestic squabble and be arrested, and it may have nothing to do with the state," he said. "You go to a protest march, and could be arrested." "If people are corrupt, there's enough law on the books now," said Ramsey, whose union represents 27,000 state employees. "But they want this self-reporting mechanism, and we don't know how it is going to be used." Abraham Dash, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, said public-sector supervisors have a legitimate interest in the affairs of their workers - even in civil cases of a personal nature such as divorce. "You would want to know how much time it would take, and what effect it would have on their duties," Dash said. "I don't see where that is overboard with regard to the administration of government." Finney said the order - released while the governor was out of the state on vacation - was part of Ehrlich's pledge to eliminate misconduct in state government. Ehrlich spoke frequently of the "culture of corruption" in Annapolis during last year's campaign, borrowing a much-copied phrase from a federal judge presiding over the trial of a prominent State House lobbyist. "The governor feels that apprehension and prevention of employee misconduct should be and now is of the highest priority," Finney said.

It is a problem, Finney said, that seems to persist. One of the clauses of the executive order states: "Instances of prior questionable conduct, identified during transition, and thereafter, have arisen and continue to arise, even to the present time." Finney refused to elaborate. "It would not be appropriate for me to speak of any of those fact situations," he said. "Instances of misconduct from the past have been there, and we're seeing them now." The executive order also places Finney -- or his successor someday as the governor's chief counsel - in the reporting chain for such allegations, supplementing the state attorney general's office. State departments "shall promptly inform" the governor's counsel and the attorney general "of any instance of possible criminal or unethical conduct by any employee or contractor of this state," the order states. It also requires both legal offices to "confer and jointly determine whether the matter should be referred" to another law enforcement agency. Deputy Attorney General Donna Hill Staton said yesterday that though the governor had the right to monitor such cases, her office would retain authority over prosecution decisions. "We are the experts. That's what we do," Staton said. "There are no decisions by committee. I don't think there is any suggestion that we are not being responsive. What Mr. Finney is saying is that matters they are hearing about now should have been referred." Ramsey, the union director, said he has noticed a tougher standard for employee violations of late. "What we are starting to see is an increase in terminations for the smallest infractions," he said. "We're seeing people brought up on charges that used to be standard practice. We're telling our members: 'It's not business as usual."

From Baltimore Sun, MD, by David Nitkin, 6 May 2003

Senate Group Approves $20 Billion Bill to Aid Local Governments

Washington - Moving on a new front to try to cure the United States' economic ills, the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would funnel $20 billion to fiscally ailing state and local governments. The money, included in a $350 billion measure to cut taxes and promote economic growth, was a response to a growing clamor for federal help from state and local government officials who have slashed health, education and other services to deal with their worst fiscal crisis in decades. No such aid was proposed by President Bush as part of his original $725 billion, 11-year economic growth initiative. But it was included in the Senate bill at the insistence of several key senators as the price of their support for the entire package. The bill, approved 12-9 on a largely party-line vote, also broke with Bush plan's by not including what he has touted as the cornerstone of his economic policy - the elimination of taxes on dividend income. Instead, the bill contains a much less sweeping provision; it would allow taxpayers to exclude at least $500 of their dividend income from taxation, with that figure to rise slightly through 2014.

Joining the committee's 11 Republicans in voting for the bill was one Democrat - Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. Lincoln, whose state was visited by Bush on Monday as part of the administration's effort to drum up support for tax cuts, supported the bill after committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, agreed to include provisions affecting homeowners and lower-income families with children. Although the bill would cut taxes and raise spending by about $421 billion, it also includes about $71 billion in so-called "offsets" - tax hikes and spending cuts in other areas. That brings the bill's net cost to $350 billion, the target the Senate set in a budget resolution passed last month. The proposed tax hikes include a provision that would reduce tax breaks for U.S. citizens working abroad and a crackdown on tax shelters. Many Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee said they were disappointed the bill did not include a deeper cut in taxes on dividends."

From DisInfo.com, by Janet Hook, 9 May 2003

Chile's Lagos Tries to Heal Corruption Wounds

Valparaiso - Chilean President Ricardo Lagos said on Wednesday his government was recovering from its worst crisis in 12 years after tackling a spate of corruption scandals through legal reforms. The socialist leader began his annual state-of-the-nation speech with a frank acknowledgment that his center-left coalition had been slow in halting illegal practices in government, particularly the recently uncovered use of fraudulent contracts to pad government officials' salaries. ''I do not want to avoid the problems,'' he told a joint session of Congress in the port city of Valparaiso. ''We have seen another face of Chile, a face that we don't like. A country that is submerged in a climate of confusion and negativity, a country that is splashed by scandal,'' he said. Several of the corruption allegations, which have dominated headlines in the South American nation since November, are being pursued in court. Lagos, calling it the worst crisis for his coalition, has proposed several laws to tighten controls on government spending and salaries, end secretive campaign financing and reduce the number of political appointees in the state bureaucracy. Some have already been passed. ''The reforms underway are unprecedented in our recent history. With them, we leave behind the problems,'' said Lagos, who is halfway through his six-year term. Four blocks away, police pushed back protesters with tear gas and water cannons as students and workers tried to march to the Congress building to demand more funding. Despite the government's damaged reputation, Chile remains one of the most politically stable countries in Latin America and Lagos' personal approval rating has remained high at 50 percent. Earlier this month, the judge investigating alleged fraud in the public works ministry indicted 25 former government employees, including the former public works minister Carlos Cruz, a close friend of Lagos.

From MSNBC, by Louise Egan, 21 May 2003

Charters an Option for Local Control

The relationship between the state and its 287 cities, towns and incorporated villages is best summed up in one sentence of the Vermont Constitution. "Towns are creatures of the state." Most municipalities are bound to adhere to state rules for everything from setting taxes to the formation of local boards and commissions. The exceptions are the 50 communities that have been granted municipal charters, including Rutland City. Charters allow communities to make their own rules to deal with situations not covered under state law or to form systems of government not prescribed under statute, according to Steven Jeffries, executive director of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns. "They're entitled to operate in a greater or lesser manner than state law allows," he said. "Technically, they're legally breaking the law." While most of the nation practices "Home Rule" - a system that allows municipalities a form of autonomy from the state - Vermont is one of eight states that ascribes to Dillon's Rule, Jeffries said. Dillon's Rule refers to a 19th-century Iowa Supreme Court justice, who, according to the VLCT Web site, ruled that municipalities were powerless to act without the authority of the state. Every city in the state needs a charter to create city councils and elect mayors. Those positions aren't included in Vermont law, which requires towns to form three-member select boards - five members if voters approve the additions.

Some municipalities, like Middlebury and Bennington, have seven-member boards, but they have charters allowing the extra members. Over the years, charters have ranged from simple, single-issue doctrines to voluminous texts that define almost every aspect of municipal governance. Rutland's charter, drafted in 1893 and revised three times in the last 11 years, is the second-longest charter in the state, behind Burlington. The Rutland charter calls for everything from the formation of the Board of Aldermen and various city departments to procedures for residents to have sidewalks installed. Most of Vermont's 13 chartered villages were formed in the latter part of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th century to take advantage of economic opportunities and utilities, according to state archivist Gregory Sanford. Villages like South Ryegate, which formed in 1909, established boundaries for those who would receive and pay for electricity in the town of Rye, he said. "Most towns couldn't afford to run lines through the whole town, but they could provide the village with power," he said. Today, many villages, such as Jericho Village, which formed in 1933, remain incorporated to operate municipal water and sewer systems within their boundaries.

The 37 charters held by cities and towns are generally more complex. Burlington's charter, drafted in 1865, contains 508 subsections dealing with everything from the formation of the city council and the voting wards to parking regulations, taxation for downtown improvement districts and budget making for the Church Street marketplace. While they vary in length and use, all charters are subject to state scrutiny and approval. For a charter to be enacted or changed, a community must hold at least two public hearings prior to a vote. If residents approve the request, the charter measure is sent to the Legislature where it is reviewed by both houses before it is signed by the governor. During the legislative review, the charter measure may be altered or rejected. Five of the six charter amendments before the Legislature this session have been approved, said Sen. William Doyle, R-Washington, chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee. "I'd say that about 95 percent of the charter requests we see get approved," he said. "Most aren't controversial, but if they deal with a change to something that is statewide policy, there could be a conflict." Rep. Judy Crowley, R-West Rutland, chairwoman of the House Local Government Committee, said she fears just such a conflict might be present in a charter amendment request from Burlington.

That city wants to extend the minimum notice for evictions in the city from the statutory 30 days to 90 days for tenants who have lived in an apartment for less than two years and 120 days for tenants who have rented apartments for two or more years. Crowley, who has the charter amendment in her committee, said she is concerned that approving the amendment would encourage other communities to set their own minimum notice requirements, thus undermining state law. She said she also doesn't want to approve the measure without hearing from landlords in Burlington. "In my estimation, we would be stepping on the owners without hearing from them, if we tried to pass the amendment this year," she said. "The way I'm feeling about it, I don't want to do anything until next year." The Senate passed an identical version of the Burlington charter change, but the proposal died on the House floor last week when Burlington asked to remove the bill from committee and bring it up immediately for action by the full House. The request was defeated, 63-88. (Contact Brent Curtis at brent.curtis@rutlandherald.com).

From Rutland Herald, VT, by Brent Curtis, 28 May 2003

 

UN Advocating for E-governance

The United Nations is advocating for the adoption of online governance strategies for efficient and effective administrative structures. This, the UN says, will help spur socio-economic growth and development in sub-Sahara Africa. E-governmence calls for use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) geared at improving activities of public sector organisations. Application of e-governance helps to reduce cost,inefficiency, inconvenience and ineffectiveness in service delivery. Conceptualization of e-governance, analysts say is more than just a Government web site on the Internet. It encompasses e-business and e-democracy, a top Kenyan researcher, Mr. Luke Wasonga said yesterday. Wasonga told the Third meeting of the Committee on Development Information (CODI) key domains of e-government include enhancement of external interactions, connecting citizens and improving Government processes. The CODI forum is being attended by 53 Africanc ountries including Kenya. It is sponsored by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) with a host of partner organisations. Wasonga, who heads the United Nations Development Programme, Central and Eastern Africa sub-regional resource facility, was presenting an overview on e-governance and its goals.

He said sub-Sahara economies were likely to take-off through adoption of concepts of online governance initiatives. The UNDP expressed disappointment that e-governance in Africa had taken too long to take root. Research shows without embracing e-governance concepts, a significant portion of the world's states was unlikely to achieve the set Millennium Development Goals (MDG) which target halving of extreme poverty by 2015. Wasonga said majority of countries in sub-Sahara Africa have failed to capitalize on IT opportunities for better governance. He said governments could effectively use IT to achieve improved goals. On why e-governance was crucial for African governments, Wasonga said UNDP adheres to the theme that democratic participation of a people was critical in human development. People everywhere want to be free to determine their destinies, express their views and participate in decisions that shape their lives, he said.

From East African Standard, Kenya, by Haroun Wandalo, 14 May 2003

4 to Get Awards for Corruption Fight

The Transparency International Integrity Awards 2003 go to the director-general of a government watchdog agency, an Auditor-General who blew the whistle on the Cabinet, and a rural campaigner against corruption in government. The Integrity Awards 2003 will be awarded to Dr Dora Akunyili, the director-general of the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration in Nigeria, Sua Rimoni Ah Chong, the former Auditor-General of Samoa, and Anna Hazare, an Indian campaigner against corruption in forestry and in government. The fourth annual TI Integrity Awards will be presented at the opening ceremony of the 11th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Seoul, Korea, on May 25. A posthumous recognition will be given to Abdelhai Beliardouh, an investigative journalist from Algeria, and Antonio Siba-Siba Macuacua, the chairman of the largest commercial bank in Mozambique, both of whom died while taking a stand against corruption. The TI Integrity Awards seek to recognise the courage and determination of the many individuals and organisations fighting corruption around the world. This year the selection committee, composed of representatives of TI national chapters as well as Integrity Award 2001 winner Eva Joly, received valid nominations from more than 40 countries.

From The Daily Post, 21 May 2003

 

Civil Servants Mark May Day Without Salaries

May Day celebrations in Zanzibar were spoilt yesterday after civil servants, who had not received their April salaries, entered the Amani Memorial Stadium in a sombre mood. The workers, wearing gloomy faces, had attempted to leave the stadium earlier, but the unprecedented mass exodus, which might have left the President, Amani Abeid Karume, addressing only a handful people, had to be stopped. Angry civil servants told the PST the government had violated their labour right to be paid on time. "It is unacceptable that the government, the custodian of our rights has failed to meet its legal obligation to pay our salaries. If this is how the government is behaving, what about private employers?" asked an angry civil servant. Addressing the nation, President Karume hinted the possibility of the Isles government increasing the minimum workers wage in the 2003/2004 fiscal year, though the move will depend on a number factors. "We will take into consideration the economic growth and government revenues before considering minimum a wage hike," hinted the President. The government's position on minimum salary has left civil servants in a dilemma.

President Karume however urged civil servants not to be disappointed by his remarks saying that his government would try its best to help civil servants survive. On the just ended American military invasion of Iraq, the Isles president linked the war to a poor performing Zanzibar economy. "The war has sent oil prices sky rocketing, tourists cancelled travel arrangements hence denying Zanzibar millions of dollars in revenue. Furthermore the continued fall of clove prices at the world market has hit our economy hard too," added the president. Available data show that a tonne of clove sells at a meagre 1,000 US dollars (about 1,040,000/-) against 5,000 US dollars (about 5,200,000/-) that the same fetched in the past. Explaining on side effects of the poor performance of the tourism sector as a result of the Iraq war, President Karume said revenue collections has plummeted by 30.7 per cent with 1,000 workers sent home. Prior to the President's speech, the Zanzibar Labour Federation proposed a hiking of the minimum wage by 100 per cent from 30,000/- to 60,000/-.

From IPPMedia, The Guardian, Tanzania, 2 May 2003

African Ministers to Plan Public Service Reform

Public service ministers from more than 40 African countries are to meet at Spier wine estate, near Stellenbosch from Monday to identify priorities and plans to reform public administration on the continent. Kgothatso Semela, the Public Service and Administration programme manager for Africa, told reporters in Cape Town today the ministers, and their directors-general, hoped to drive forward a new, and common, reform agenda. With the advent of the Partnership for Africa's Development, the continent's economic recovery plan, countries had, now more than ever, to strive to improve the capacity of their public service. The conference - the fourth Pan-African meeting of public service ministers - aimed to develop a common understanding of public sector reform efforts and challenges, and to define a long-term agenda for institutional reform, she said. This agenda, in the form of a final resolution, is expected to be presented to the African Union (AU). Delegates are also due to examine the results of research into the state of African public institutions, and the spending of donor funds. Thabo Mbeki, the South African, and AU President, is scheduled to address the welcoming dinner ahead of the three-day conference, ending May 7.

From SABC News, South Africa, 30 April 2003

Civil Servants Given 90 Days to Declare Wealth

Public servants now have 90 days to declare their wealth following the passing into law of the Anti-corruption and Economic Crimes and Public Officers Bills. Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Kiraitu Murungi yesterday said all public servants, regardless of rank, will be required to declare their property within 90 days. He said that forms will be circulated in all public offices for the officers to declare their assets and will be filled every year to monitor further acquisition of wealth. Kiraitu said the Anti-Corruption Commission and Economic Crimes and Public Officers Bills was intended to change the patterns of behaviour of public servants and check corruption and extortion. He was addressing Provincial Commissioners and District Commissioners in a workshop at the Kenya Institute of Administration (KIA). The Minister revealed that the Government will audit departments to expose the extent of fraud in the ministries, adding that junior officers were more corrupt than their seniors. He disclosed that the Government was particularly targeting corrupt officers in the Public Works and Housing Ministry.

He said civil servants who have misappropriated public funds will soon start appearing in court regardless of which region or tribes they come from. Kiraitu also announced that a special committee to investigate harambees will be established in a five-year anti-corruption campaign already in place. The minister also lashed out at the Provincial Administration, which he accused of maintaining a 'colonial' and oppressive legacy. Kiraitu revealed that the newly established Public Complaints Committee has received over 200 complaints, especially against the Provincial Administration and the Judiciary. He said there was strong recommendation by the National Constitutional Conference delegates to scrap the Provincial Administration. However, he noted there was need to reduce the layers in the administration's set up and re-draw the boundaries for it to be effective. He said some provinces were too large and not economically viable for the government and those they are intended to serve, adding that there should be more State control at the grassroot level. The Minister urged chiefs and their assistants to fight the brewing of what he termed poisons in the guise of liquor.

From East African Standard, Kenya, by Dominic Wabala, 2 May 2003

Public Service Association Pressing for $150 000 Minimum Salary Level

Harare - The Public Service Association (PSA) is pressing for a minimum salary level of $150 000 for the lowest paid civil servant and a transport allowance of at least $40 000 in view of the prevailing high inflation. "We are now looking on an adjustment on transport allowances of at least $40 000," PSA president Givemore Masongorera told The Herald. "Anything less than $40 000 will not help us." Some civil servants commuted daily from as far as Norton, Chegutu, Marondera and other areas around the capital and were spending up to $10 000 a week. Commuters around Harare pay fares ranging from $150 up to $500 on a single trip to the city. "Civil servants are really agitated," Mr. Masongorera said. "We have made efforts to try and assist by calming down the situation but the Government - in particular the Public Service Commission - does not seem to be perturbed by this situation."

He implored the Government to conclude the job evaluation immediately. The evaluation was done to address inadequacies in salaries and allowances for civil servants. "This is a very disturbing issue," he said. "The Government has taken too long to conclude the job evaluation, hence inflation is eating away all the benefits before they are even effected." He said the April fuel increase, when petrol prices more than quadrupled, fuelled an already high inflation rate. "Civil servants' salaries and allowances will have to be adjusted with effect from April 1," he said. "Increases came abruptly and civil servants have to be paid for this gap. Right now they are battling to pay for transport and even to buy basic food." There were about 190 000 civil servants in 1990 when economic reforms were launched. The number went down to 171 000 by 1998 as the Government battled to reduce expenditure in line with its economic reforms. It aimed to reduce this figure to further down to 134 000 by 2000.

Current official figures show that the civil service has a total of up to 135 000 posts, the vast majority of them teachers and the rest mainly in the medical and agricultural sectors. In February last year, civil servants were awarded salary and allowance increments of between 55 and 80 percent as part of the Government initiative to improve the welfare of its employees. Five months later, they were given another 20 percent salary increment after Parliament approved a $52 billion supplementary budget. And this year, the Government awarded civil servants an 80 percent salary increment in addition to a 150 and 100 percent increments for transport and housing allowances. The PSA locks horns with the Government over a new round of salary increments this coming week. PSC secretary Mr. Ray Ndhlukula said these demands by the civil servants had not been communicated to the commission. "We have not received any communication from them," he said. He also said the job evaluation was still going on with all key stakeholders being consulted.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 6 May 2003

Public Service Workers Celebrate For the First Time

Bamenda - Secretary General Yufenyuy Joseph Mokassa appeals for peace as prerequisite to greater output. It took close to two hours for some 200 professional groups and company workers to match past yesterday at the Commercial Avenue in the key event to mark the 117th International Labour Day. Apart from the match past, two important messages were delivered to workers by the Secretary General at the North West Governor's office and the Mezam Divisional Union of Trades Unions President, Ndi Lawrence Ngong. If the workers gathered anything from their trades unions leader's address it was an appeal for a move from rhetoric and labour disputes to more hard work and efficiency. For once, workers heard a different language other than the usual hard words of reprimand to employers for better working conditions. Mr. Ndi Lawrence said, the trade unions have come a long way and there was now need for "decent work for the fight against poverty and lasting human development", as spelt out in this year's theme of the Labour Day. He however had one warning to employers - do not go in for cheap and unqualified workers as a solution to the stiff demands for good working conditions and profits. Mr. Yufenyuy Joseph Mokasso took off from there in a lengthy appeal to reason.

The context has changed, he said and the social and economic crisis of the 90s have given way to peace and tranquility which augurs well for efficiency at work. The Secretary General pointed out that employers nd employees should dialogue to foster increased production for better working conditions. After all, "we need to feed the bodies that work for the money", he added. The innovations this year came in the professional groups that matched past. For the first time it included public service employees. Never before had civil servants participated remarkably in Labour Day festivities in Bamenda. This time they were present in a show of strength as if to say we are also workers. This year, workers of the delegation of Employment, Labour and Social Insurance, Agriculture, Environment, the Linguistic Centre, etc, also matched past. But enterprises caught the attention of officials at the grand stand and the crowd. They included bakeries, banks, inter-urban transport agencies, hotels, newspaper vendors and some State corporations. Most of the workers were clad in bright textiles and had articles to display and dish free to onlookers. Another event which made the occasion in Bamenda hectic was the general feasting that continued late into the evening at all nooks and crannies of the town. SOPECAM' staff of the Bamenda office were joined by newspaper vendors in a reception offered by their chief. The vendors thanked the management of SOPECAM for including them in the celebrations of Labour Day for the past three years.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Georgewill Fombe, 2 May 2003

Transport Allowance for Civil Servants Hiked

Harare - The transport allowance for civil servants have been increased from $7 312 to $22 000 with effect from the beginning of last month, a Public Service Commission (PSC) official said last night. PSC secretary Mr. Ray Ndhluku-la said in a statement that the allowances would cushion civil servants against escalating transport costs. "Furthermore, the commission has agreed to the implementation of advancement for all public servants for the year 2001 and 2002, an advancement of one notch per year based on performance," said Mr. Ndhlukula. He said the PSC was looking at ways of implementing the minimum wage recently agreed in the Tripartite Negotiating Forum. "Once the decision has been made after consultations, the public servants will be advised accordingly," he said. "All the above are being done by the commission in order to improve the conditions of service of all public servants." Some civil servants such as teachers had already threatened go on strike for a review of salaries and allowances such as those for transport. Mr. Ndhlukula said both the job profiling and job grading for civil servants which started in 2001 were completed. He said reports on the two exercises were referred to stakeholders for comment. "Once this is through, a final job grading report will be prepared," said Mr. Ndhlukula. "It is envisaged that the report back process will not go beyond two weeks beginning this week." The PSC embarked on a job evaluation exercise 2001 as part of the ongoing Public Service Reform Programme.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 8 May 2003

Government to Ensure Efficiency in Public Service

Nairobi - The Government yesterday said it has put in place a mechanism to ensure public servants are more accountable and responsive to the needs of Kenyans. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Mrs. Deborah Ongewe, said the Government has conducted public delivery surveys in all ministries with a view to identifying and streamlining bottlenecks which had in past adversely affected operations. Ongewe said measures have now been put in place to transform civil servants into responsive agents of development. She said civil servants will now retain their jobs depending on their performance, urging them to be more focused and direct their energies towards implementation of core functions of their ministries. The PS made the remarks when she officially opened the Stakeholders Workshop on Public Service Delivery Survey at the Agricultural Finance Corporation college in Karen, Nairobi. The Surveys are jointly being co-ordinated by the ministry and the Directorate of Personnel Management in the Office of the President.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Kurgat Marindany, 8 May 2003

Public Service Ministers Adopt Programme At Pan African Conference

Pretoria - The 4th Pan African conference of Public Service Ministers came to an end in Stellenbosch, Cape Town, today, with the adoption of a programme aimed at improving service delivery - The Governance and Public Administration Programme (G&PA) for Africa promotes regional co-operation. It would also identify critical areas of intervention in capability development, knowledge, policy learning and partnership support. Public Service and Administration minister, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, said the conference had established a committee of seven members to oversee the implementation and monitoring of the G&PA. 'This committee made up of Public Service ministers will represent five regions on the continent, namely Eastern, Western, Northern, Southern and Central,' the minister announced. Minister Fraser-Moleketi also announced the establishment of an implementation committee to monitor public service delivery on the continent. 'There is a committee of ministers that will monitor the work of the structure as a whole. In South Africa, Cabinet oversees implementation of policies and a number of measures have been set up to improve our performance,' she said. The ministers adopted the Stellenbosch Declaration today, committing them to building the capacity of regional and national institutions to secure the success of the Governance and Public Administration programme. They also requested international and continental partners to support the G&PA Programme through the provision of resources and capacity building.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Seshoane Masitha and Candace Freeman, 8 May 2003

Civil Servants Fears Over De Villiers Commission

As the date for the release of the Justice David de Villiers salary commission report beckons, civil service organisations have begun bracing themselves for the worst - Statements from government, they told Mmegi this week, have heightened their fears. Last weekend Vice President Ian Khama told a political rally that government cannot afford to adjust civil service salaries because it has no money. The Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Baledzi Gaolathe also alluded to the fact that government has no money to increase salaries in his budget speech. He did not mention the commission and according to the president of the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions, Ronald Baipidi, this presents a dicey situation. "Whatever the recommendation the commission makes, they will say yes we understand but as we have said earlier there is no money," said Baipidi adding that even President Festus Mogae has hinted there is no money. "Many people are expecting something but for us manual workers we are only expecting lots of troubles," said Johnson Motshwarakgole, chief executive of the National Amalgamated Local and Central Government and Parastatal Manual Worker's Union. He asserted that even though the commission is to review the salary structure, a salary enhancement is expected because the structure is itself a mixture of confusion.

For instance, he said, because of lack of a clear salary structure, different cadres in government can just wake up and design their own structure and upgrade themselves. He argued that this has happened with the district commissioners, the council secretaries while other cadres such as the Commissioner of Prisons and Local Police are left out. He added that some posts are created any-how and 'all this is done without following any structure.' The present structure, he said is essentially a relic of the colonial system and was last reviewed in 1969. "You have to be prepared to pay if you are to normalise this situation," he said adding that their union has proposed to the commission a minimum wage of P1200. This figure, he said is even lower than the P1400 living wage for a family of four. Presently, the lowest paid civil servant is at scale at A3 with P700. If there is no money as it is being said, why then did government appoint the commission, he asked rhetorically. The president of the Botswana Federation of Secondary Schools Teachers (BOFESETE), Baboloki Tlale said as teachers they are anticipating an improved salary structure and an allowance. Tlale said they re-submitted the same proposals they made in 2001 when government decided to establish a separate salary structure for teachers, nurses, police and prison staff. However government later backtracked but this time Tlale said they are keeping their fingers crossed.

He refused to accept there is no money saying this does not mean that everything has stopped, as there are many government projects going on. After all, he argued how does government justify coming up with issues such as the enhancement of the BDF retirement packages. He said they want to separate the issue of allowance from the commission. Mbakiso Magola of the Botswana Civil Service Association (BCSA) said: "our hope is that both government and the commission will take into account our submissions and those of other organisations." He said they want broad-bending in the salary structure because it will make it possible for officers to progress even without necessarily being promoted. Further, he said BCSA wants a reduction of the ratio between the highest paid civil servants at PSP/CJ scale and the lowest paid at A3, which now stands at 1:39. "We want that gap reduced and we want the notches between scales to be kept consistent at three percent," he said. This would also help reduce the pay grades from 22 to 17. Speaking to Mmegi De Villiers said many of the organisations brought in issues such as re-grading, salary reviews and allowances, which are outside the scope of his commission. He would however not say if the structure would yield any salary increase or not.

From Mmegi, Botswana, by Bester Gabotlale, 9 May 2003

Be Dedicated, Council Boss Charges Civil Servants

The newly appointed Executive Secretary of Amuwo Odofin Local Government, Mrs. Modupe Oguntuwase has charged the council staff to rededicate themselves to the ideals of hardwork, dedication and commitment. Speaking during her inaugural meeting with the local government staff, Mrs. Oguntuwase regretted that the principle of dedication to service is gradually being eroded among civil servant. She therefore, appealed that the staff change their attitude, promising that she would run an open door administration where every shade of opinion can be accommodated. She enjoined the staff members to feel free and avail themselves of this opportunity to bring any suggestions they have to her office. Mrs. Oguntuwase equally implored the staff members to support the government of the day, as according to her, civil servants belong to "Any Government in Power Party (AGPP)." Responding, the Head of Personnel Management, Alhaja F.A. Tinubu promised, on behalf of entire staff, that the new Executive Secretary will be given the required co-operation from the staff members. Mrs. Oguntuwase had earlier held various meetings with the interest groups in the local government such as the youth, the Community Development Committee (CDC), market men and women, cultural societies and the political leaders on ways to ensure peaceful cohabitation in the local government. It will be recalled that, Mrs. Oguntuwase, a career civil servant, was appointed the council executive secretary after the former boss of the council, Alhaji Bola Balogun, was relieved of the post.

From This Day, Nigeria, by Remi Adefulu, 11 May 2003

Lagos Plans Cheaper Houses for Civil Servants

Lagos State Deputy Governor, Mr. Olufemi Pedro, has said that the provision of affordable housing units for low income earners, especially public servants, was a priority of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration in its second term. The plan was revealed by Pedro during a chat with newsmen yesterday in Ikeja while receiving President Olusegun Obasanjo back to the country from a short vacation in Germany. Asked what to expect from the Tinubu administration, Pedro said "Lagosians should expect a new improved government. One of the areas we intend to focus on is the provision of affordable and quality houses for the low income earners. We are also putting in place various mortgages schemes to ensure that public servants can acquire government houses and pay over a long period of time. "The Lagos State Deputy Governor appealed to the Federal Government and the National Assembly to accord Lagos "a special status." He said "when the federal capital was in Lagos, the Federal Government had responsibility for the maintenance of most of the infrastructure in the state. But when the federal capital was moved to Abuja, the bridges, the roads and other Federal Government infrastructure were left behind". On increasing incidence of collapsed buildings in the state, Pedro blamed the ugly trend on greed on the part of builders who used substandard equipment and materials because they wanted more rental income. The deputy governor said the state government was working on plans to check the ugly incidence by "setting up a laboratory for testing building materials, increase surveillance to ensure compliance with approved plan and a general clean-up exercise." Obasanjo, who alighted from the presidential jet at about 11.35am only acknowledged cheers from newsmen and immediately departed for his Ota Farm in Ogun State aboard a military helicopter.

From This Day, Nigeria, 14 May 2003

Civil Service to Fix Pay on Performance

Salary increments for civil servants will be based on performance. The Directorate of Personnel Management is in the process of reviewing the government's performance appraisal systems to make it possible to link pay with performance while awarding annual increments, training opportunities and promotions. This will also help in filling of vacancies, some of which are never advertised. The permanent secretary in charge of the directorate, Mr. Simon Njau, said this during the opening of a seminar for heads of personnel units at the Mombasa Beach Hotel yesterday. He said there was need to infuse new blood into the ministries to harness new skills in the market. He said the government had not recruited staff for the past 10 years and the number of aging employees was now an issue of concern. The human resource department, he said, was supposed to ensure that officers who performed well and were qualified were promoted. He added that the employees' performance could only be assessed if staff appraisal was taken seriously. All the ministries, he noted, were in the process of rationalisation to identify their core functions and come up with plans of action.

They will set certain standards to help them measure their performance. The analysis was supposed to show whether there was need for recruitment or redeployment. The directorate, he said, was also revising schemes of service to make them more adaptive to the changing realities and asked the heads to ensure that they revised the areas necessary at the required time and avoid submitting raw drafts. The Public Service Commission, he noted, had delegated powers to the heads to handle promotion and discipline of officers from job groups A to L for those with less than 15 years service. He urged the participants to be professional in their work by paying keen attention to efficiency in terms of cost effectiveness, impact and timeliness. The government, he said, had developed initiatives to improve the performance of the public service. Among the issues the participants are expected to discuss in the five-day seminar are performance management and evaluation, linking performance with rewards and designing of performance appraisal policy.

From Daily Nation, Kenya, by Lucy Kilalo, 19 May 2003

Civil Servants Have One Month to Declare Wealth

All government employees have one month to declare their wealth, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Kiraitu Murungi said today. Murungi said employees in the public service will be given forms for wealth declaration before the end of the week so as to fill in what they owned. The minister said any public employee who fails to record all his property on the declaration form will have to forfeit to the government all the excluded wealth. Murungi said the form will be used in monitoring what public officers acquired on an annual basis beginning new financial year after the month of July. "Everybody from the messenger to the President of the country will make known to the government what they owned. Any officer who leaves out what he/ she owned in the forms will lose out the property to the government", the minister said. Murungi was speaking at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies, Nairobi during the official opening of the workshop on joint training, research, advocacy and governance (Trag) programme of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission and Egerton University.

The minister said corruption continued to stall government offices even under the current regime.He said the ministers sat in their eighth and ninth floors as corruption took place in the other floors of the same building they sat in. Murungi called on the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission to send their investigators to his Sheria House offices and the Attorney General Chambers to arrest corrupt employees who still engaged in corruption. The minister said all government registries teemed with corruption as files continued to disappear even under the new government. He said war against corruption will not be won by diplomas, certificates and degrees but by the resolve of Kenyans who must change their attitude. The minister said harambee have been used in the past to promote corruption in the past regime. He said the fight against corruption was crucial in the fight for the revival of the local economy. The minister admitted that there was general lack of capacity to fight the vice and lauded Egerton for having taken the initiative to work with the anti corruption commission. "Our human and institutional capacity need to be strengthened to win the war against corruption in the country", the minister said.

From East African Standard, Kenya, by Ochieng' Sino, 19 May 2003

Civil Servants' Pay Hike Meet Delayed

Proposed negotiations between Civil Service Trade Union (CSTU) and the Government Negotiating Team (GNT) to discuss a salary increment for public workers have been deferred to next Wednesday in Lilongwe because most GNT members were committed with Parliament.CSTU president Thomas Banda confirmed in an interview on Thursday that the meeting, initially set for May 20 has been postponed to May 28 at the request of the GNT. "With Parliament in session, most principal secretaries who form the GNT are busy with their respective cabinet ministers so it would not have been right to hold the meeting," said Banda. He said the agenda for the meeting remains the same-to discuss salary increase, wage bill and house allowances for the civil service. Banda said in an earlier interview civil servants have gone without a pay rise for three years but, he said, the public servants understood government's position because it was giving a priority to the food crisis. "Apart from the hunger, government also introduced equity in housing allowances which attracted a huge wage bill and soothed our spirits but now we are saying the hunger is no more, give us an increment," he said.

From The Nation, Malawi, by Aubrey Mchulu, 22 May 2003

Hundreds of Dismissed Civil Servants to Be Prosecuted

Grahamstown - The Office of the Premier yesterday (subs: tues) announced that hundreds of civil servants dismissed for fraud and corruption following internal investigations would be prosecuted. Office communications officer Lynette Skriker said yesterday (subs: tues) that "hundreds of civil servants, identified and dismissed following internal investigations, have already been handed over to the criminal justice system to be pursued further." She did not reveal to which departments they belonged. However, she said that the departments of social development, finance, economic affairs and environment and tourism have made "strides" in combatting fraud and corruption. Eastern Cape Director-General Mvuyo Tom said the progress made in combatting fraud and corruption was on course and registering the "desired results". Skriker said both internal preventative measures, led by the shared internal audit unit and external strategies, led by the provincial anti-corruption forum were "being put in place". "The shared internal audit unit has helped in establishing anti-fraud working committees in all departments", she said. An amount of R400 000 has been set aside for programmes to train committee members to deal with fraud and corruption. Skriker said the implementation of an ethics line project would be put out to tender shortly. She encouraged civil servants and members of the public to provide information on corruption that would be investigated internally before being handed over to the criminal justice system.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Thozi Ka Manyisana, 20 May 2003

PS Spells Out Narc Government Plan to Fight Corruption

The Government yesterday gave indicators of how corruption is being fought and how much has been gained so far. The Permanent Secretary in charge of Governance and Ethics in the Office of the President, Mr. John Githongo, said there was now a conducive atmosphere and opportunities to fight the vice following Narc's election victory last December. "The election of a new administration (usually) creates an 18 to 24-month "window of opportunity" during which time support and confidence about the future facilitates the implementation of a range of anti-corruption measures," said Githongo. Githongo made the remarks when he officially opened the 19th Annual Seminar of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK) at White Sands Beach Hotel. The seminar was sponsored by the Consolidated Bank of Kenya. Narc's win has created the needed political will, the willingness and ability of the nation's top leadership to lead the corruption fight from the front, said Githongo. He said President Mwai Kibaki himself continued to lead towards this direction. "This leadership informs the entire programme", he added.

Among the participants were the Standard Finance Director, Mr. Chris Kisire, Nairobi Stock Exchange Chief Executive, Mr. Kibuga Kariithi and the acting chairperson of ICPAK, Ms Rose Ogega, among others. Githongo said the Government had created avenues of dealing with the past (also called transitional justice) adding that they will continue to address economic crimes that have continued to impoverish Kenyans. "To this end, the Government has created a task force to explore the need for the establishment of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission," he said. He also cited the Goldenberg Commission. He said the legal framework will be overhauled and liberalised to give it the political will to implement policies. "As you are aware, the Anti-Corruption and Ethics Crime Act 2003 and the Public Officer Ethics Act, 2003, are both now law after being granted presidential assent," he said. He said the private sector was a key stakeholder in the battle against corruption and the institutions that fight it, thus the Government's full integration plan of this sector. Githongo urged professionals to fully back the Government's plan if it has to succeed and hailed the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) for committing itself towards this.

Addressing the seminar, the Deputy Managing Director of Consolidated Bank of Kenya, Mr. Dan Nguchu, said the bank has made a tremendous profit improvement with pre-tax profit standing at Sh77 million in 2002, adds Caroline Mango. This is against a loss of Sh13 million in 2001 and a loss of Sh34 million in the year 2000. Nguchu said the bank's interest base rose to Sh182 million in 2001 to Sh234 million in 2002, a 29 per cent increment. Other incomes rose from Sh116 million in 2001 to Sh347 million in 2002. Nguchu said the bank had embarked on a major expansion programme, with plans to open branches in Rift Valley, Western and Nyanza provinces. "We are also laying out serious strategies to intensify our presence in areas where we already exist like Mount Kenya, Eastern, Coast and Nairobi," he said. Nguchu said the bank also intended to diversify services and introduce more products, including Smart ATMs, SMS banking and home banking. "In our corporate plan which is in the next four years, we shall have diversified services in savings and investments in the interest of our customers," Nguchu said.

From East African Standard, Kenya, by Daniel Nyassy and Abdulsamad Ali, 22 May 2003

Civil Service to Fix Pay On Performance

Nairobi - Salary increments for civil servants will be based on performance. The Directorate of Personnel Management is in the process of reviewing the government's performance appraisal systems to make it possible to link pay with performance while awarding annual increments, training opportunities and promotions. This will also help in filling of vacancies, some of which are never advertised. The permanent secretary in charge of the directorate, Mr. Simon Njau, said this during the opening of a seminar for heads of personnel units at the Mombasa Beach Hotel yesterday. He said there was need to infuse new blood into the ministries to harness new skills in the market. He said the government had not recruited staff for the past 10 years and the number of aging employees was now an issue of concern. The human resource department, he said, was supposed to ensure that officers who performed well and were qualified were promoted. He added that the employees' performance could only be assessed if staff appraisal was taken seriously.

All the ministries, he noted, were in the process of rationalisation to identify their core functions and come up with plans of action. They will set certain standards to help them measure their performance. The analysis was supposed to show whether there was need for recruitment or redeployment. The directorate, he said, was also revising schemes of service to make them more adaptive to the changing realities and asked the heads to ensure that they revised the areas necessary at the required time and avoid submitting raw drafts. The Public Service Commission, he noted, had delegated powers to the heads to handle promotion and discipline of officers from job groups A to L for those with less than 15 years service. He urged the participants to be professional in their work by paying keen attention to efficiency in terms of cost effectiveness, impact and timeliness. The government, he said, had developed initiatives to improve the performance of the public service. Among the issues the participants are expected to discuss in the five-day seminar are performance management and evaluation, linking performance with rewards and designing of performance appraisal policy.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Lucy Kilalo, 21 May 2003

 

Professionals Are Toppers in Civil Services Examinations

New Delhi - Professionals walked away with almost half of the top 20 seats of this year's Civil Services examinations, including the top slot, which has been bagged by Ankur Garg, an engineer from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, in his first attempt. Less than a week after the Lok Sabha witnessed a heated discussion on whether professionals should be allowed to appear for the Civil Services examinations, the results announced today shows a clear trend towards professionals making a mark. The top 20 of this year's list include four engineers, two doctors, two lawyers and an MBA professional. A total of 286 students have been selected and recommended for appointment to the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), the Indian Foreign Service, the Indian Police Service and the Central Services, group A and B posts. The list includes 53 women.

This year's results show an improvement in the number of students making it in their first attempt - eight of the top 20. They include Patiala-based Ankur Garg, the topper, and third rank holder, S. Aswathy, an M.Phil student from the University of Hyderabad. Women got six of the top 20 seats. Of those selected, 38 are from the Scheduled Caste, 22 from the Scheduled Tribe, and 88 Other Backward Classes. Kamal Kishore Yadav is the topper in the OBC category. Around 1.5 lakh students took the preliminary tests conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) on May 19 last year. Of the 3,483 candidates who qualified for the main written test, 750 were selected for interview. While the results are available at the UPSC's website www.upsc.gov.in it has also set up a facilitation counter near the examination hall in its campus. Candidates can obtain information or clarification regarding their recruitment or examinations by dialling 2338521 or 23381125.

From The Hindu, India, by Lakshmi Balakrishnan, 2 May 2003

Nauruan Public Servants Receive First Pay for Months

Public servants in Nauru have begun receiving their first pay packet in months, just one day before national elections. Our Pacific correspondent Sean Dorney says there has been a steady stream of public servants lining up at the government's salary office and a crowd has gathered outside the Bank of Nauru to collect wages. But the money that finance minister Remy Namaduk brought into Nauru on the plane from Australia will not satisfy everyone, and some people are already complaining they have been paid only a fraction of the wages owed to them. President Derog Gioura has conceded his government's severe cash flow problems could damage the re-election prospects of some members of parliament. Mr. Gioura says the members have expectations to meet. "Most members will need to have some funds to be able to, you know, to appease some of the intending voters, although we do not give people money, because it's against the rules. You don't bribe people. But there are certain family needs between, you know, family to family," he said.

From GoAsiaPacific.com, Asia, 2 May 2003

Cash Hails PM's Call to Civil Servants on Pay Hike

Kota Kinabalu: The Consumers Association of Sabah and Labuan (Cash) Monday expressed support for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad's call to civil servants to stop demanding for pay increase. Its President Patrick Sindu said frequent pay increases could push up the cost of living, especially in Sabah, where it was already high. "What needs improvement is the productivity of civil servants...I find that civil servants are always not in their office because of matters that are not related to their official duties," he said in a statement here. He said the salaries that civil servants were receiving now were sufficient and they should think of those in the private sector who were lowly paid but made no demands. On Sunday, Dr Mahathir said the nation would be impoverished and the cost of living would rise if civil servants kept on demanding for pay increase. He said civil servants should think not just compensation or salaries, but should also think in terms of job satisfaction and their contributions to national development. "They should also think of their contributions to make our country respected throughout the world, of their contributions towards making Malaysians proud of being Malaysians and recognised by the world for their success," he added.

From Daily Express, Malaysia, 6 May 2003

Sichuan Province Sends 1.7 million Civil Servants for Extra Training

Southwest China's Sichuan Province has launched a five-year campaign to improve the training of more than 1.7 million officials. Southwest China's Sichuan Province has launched a five-year campaign to improve the training of more than 1.7 million officials. The Sichuan Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) issued a document recommending a large-scale re-training campaign. According to local sources, 350,000 officials will be sent back to schools for training courses this year, including 211 who will be selected to pursue studies in foreign countries including the United States, Britain, Singapore, and Germany. Trainees will mainly study courses in subjects ranging from documents of the 16th CPC National Congress, cultural industry, electronic administration, foreign economy and trade, to rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

From People's Daily Online, China, 6 May 2003

Anandhakumar Tops Successful Civil Services Candidates from TN

Coimbatore - Anandhakumar, a 27-year-old veterinary doctor from Palladam in Coimbatore district has topped the list of successful candidates from Tamil Nadu in the Civil Services (Main) Examination 2002. Contrary to the earlier reports that said a Madurai girl topped the civil services examinations from the State, Anandhakumar, ranked 52 overall, tops the list, according to the results declared by the Union Public Service Commission(UPSC). He is the son of K Ramasamy, an assistant agricultural officer, and has excelled academically right from school with 1055 marks in his Higher Secondary exams at Chokkan Chettiar Mallammal Higher Secondary School at Vadambacheri in Palladam. Though he got selected for BSc and BE degree courses, Anandhakumar opted for BVSc at Namakkal Government Veterinary Medical College and secured five gold medals for his academic performance. He completed his M.VSc at Indian Veterinary Medical Research Centre in Uttar Pradesh.

It was in UP that he undertook coaching for competitive exams. Inspired by the success of his seniors Murugesan and Meenakshisundaram, who are now IPS and IAS officers respectively, Anandhakumar decided to try for the top most honour in the government machinery. Though he cleared the preliminary examinations in 2000 he could not take up the mains. In 2001, he failed to get past the group discussion. However in 2002, he has emerged with flying colours. M Sudhadevi, the third rank holder in the State hails from Thiruchengode in Namakkal district. Speaking to newspersons here on Saturday, Sudha, aged 27, said that women should not think that education ended with marriage. Hard work and hope would help reap the reward, said Sudha, who has cleared the exam in the first attempt. She added. "Empowerment of women would be my top priority and I would help others in all possible ways to achieve this goal," she emphasised.

From Newindpress, India, 3 May 2003

Competency Evaluation for Sabah Civil Servants by November

Kota Kinabalu- Civil servants in the State have to start preparing for an evaluation under the Public Services Department's (PSD) competency project by November. The evaluation is a one-day two-tiered examination to gauge their competency in terms of knowledge and understanding of government documents and their own duties and functions. Cuepacs Secretary-General Datuk Abd Rahman Manan revealed this when met during a question and answer session with Agriculture Department personnel from all over the country, here Tuesday. "Firstly, the civil servants will have to know the General Orders, government circulars and financial and treasury instructions and secondly, their job specifications," he said. Cuepacs has from now until November to help civil servants prepare their modules and curriculum for the evaluation. According to Rahman, the immediate objective of the evaluation is to upgrade the civil service's effectiveness and efficiency, leading to the development of more knowledge workers in the public sector. "If workers pass their evaluation, they can get a revision to a higher level of remuneration next year," he said. Civil servants are paid according to a three-stage remuneration plan dubbed P1, P2 and P3 based on the Malaysia Remuneration System (REM), which replaces the New Remuneration System for the civil service. "The yearly increment of two to three per cent will not be in effect any longer," he said.

After the evaluation of the workers, he believes the next round of evaluations would target the public service's grasp on information and communication technology (ICT). Rahman hoped the State Government and its departments and agencies will actively start preparing their personnel early for the November evaluation. "Otherwise, they won't be able to sit for the examination and if they fail, they will not be upgraded to a new salary scale," he said. One of Cuepacs' concerns is for the evaluation and its examination to be more flexible for civil servants. "We want everyone to get a chance to sit for the examination and the Government should offer the chance to everyone," he said. He said this was due to doubts that only certain quarters might be able to sit for the examination and in turn, receive the increments if they pass. Also, Rahman said the examination should be less academic and focus more on the workers' job functions and duties. "So, the Assistant Secretary in Sabah and Sarawak will talk to all the departments and help them set up a Competency Examination Panel to prepare for the evaluation," he said. "Every department must set up a panel to make sure each of the staff sits for the exam," he said.

From Daily Express, Malaysia, 7 May 2003

Interim Order on NWP, Public Service Commission: Disrobed Teachers to Continue for Time Being

The Supreme Court yesterday issued an Interim Order restraining the Chairman and the North Western Provincial (NWP) Public Service Commission (PSC) from invalidating the appointments of Sariputhra trained teachers who disrobed themselves, until the final determination of the application. The Bench comprised Justices Mark Fernando PC, D. P. S. Gunasekera and Asoka de Silva. Ten petitioners including B. P. H. P. Mendis of Kattuwa, Negombo, W.M. Mahinda Wanninayake of Egodagama, Ma-Eliya and W. G. N. S. Wanasinghe of Kobeigane cited NWPPSC Chairman, its Secretary, members and the Attorney General as respondents. The Petitioners claimed that they had been Bhikkus who were trained at the Sariputhra College of Education and after the conclusion of their training they were posted to difficult areas in the North Western province as assistant teachers mainly to teach Buddhism.

They stated that they had faced tremendous difficulties in obtaining Dana and were forced to live with laymen due to the non availability of accommodation in temples. Since they could not abide by the Vinaya under such conditions they disrobed on various occasions. The petitioners claimed that on March 10, got to know that a teacher who passed-out of the Sariputhra Educational College, received a letter, invalidating his appointment after he disrobed himself. Many others in similar circumstances had also received identical letters, claimed the petitioners. Petitioners stated that there was no requirement for a person to continue to be a Bhikku after he was given an appointment as an assistant teacher. Batty Weerakoon with Chamantha Weerakoon and Ayanthi Abeywickrama appeared for petitioners. Hearing was put off for July 25.

From Daily News, Sri Lanka, by Wasantha Ramanayake, 8 May 2003

Talks Loom on Public Service Deals

Two of the larger public service contract negotiations in Southland are about to start, involving council and health workers. Public Service Association (PSA) organiser Mark Ryan said yesterday the union was hoping for smoother talks with the four Southland councils than the "toxic" round two years ago when it was trying to negotiate a single collective agreement to cover all the councils. The contract for local government officers expires on July 1 and negotiations would start at the end of this month. "The multi-employer collective agreement is the only one of its kind in the country and has proved to be remarkably durable despite the prolonged nature of the first round of negotiations in 2000 and 2001," Mr. Ryan said. The officers nearly took industrial action in 2001 but called it off when an 11th hour offer came from the councils. "We're expecting it to be a hell of a lot smoother this time," he said. Limited health funding was likely to be the main stumbling block to reaching a settlement with the district health board for its allied health professionals and technicians, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists and medical technicians. "We expect the present state of health funding will be the biggest barrier raised by the employer to a fair pay settlement," Mr. Ryan said. "But our intentions are to conclude a successful round in good time so that bargaining issues do not get in the way of the transfer into the new hospital (next year)." About 300 PSA members would be affected by the council and health board contracts. Negotiations with the district health board would start early next month, he said.

From The Southland Times, New Zealand, by David Cosgriff, 12 May 2003

Public Servants Drain the Coffers

Victorias's public service wages bill has blown out by more than $2.6 billion under the Bracks Labor Government. Budget papers and annual reports reveal the cost of Victoria's public servants has ballooned from $6.983 billion in 1998/1999 - the last year of the Kennett Government - to a projected $9.597 billion in 2003/2004. The number of full-time core public servants (employed in departments and administrative offices) has blown out from 23,597 to 26,262 (a rise of 11.3 per cent) over the same period. The 2655 increase in core public servants does not include the 5000 additional police, nurses and teachers promised and delivered by the Bracks Government, which has added hundreds of millions of dollars to the Government's wages bill. An analysis of annual reports shows that hundreds of public servants are now on $100,000-plus a year packages - more than many members of Parliament earns. About 25 bureaucrats are on $260,000-plus a year packages - more than Premier Steve Bracks receives. And, while most public sector employees have received single-digit pay rises since Labor won government, the wages of a handful of senior bureaucrats have increased by up to $40,000.

Opposition Leader Robert Doyle said the wages bill was ludicrous and unsustainable over the long term. "This tells us where the money's gone; it's gone in a blow-out of public service wages," he said. "I have no problem with the extra nurses, police and teachers they are making a valuable contribution to our community. But what we are getting for this extra $2.6 billion is more red tape, more paper shufflers." Mr. Doyle said it was blatantly obvious that things were out of kilter when dozens of public servants earned more than the Premier. He said a bloated public service was the hallmark of Labor governments. "They are adding to the wages bill every single year and working Victorians are paying for it," he said. "If there's a downturn in the economy, and we slide into deficit, it will be because we have a bloated public service which we are paying too much for."

Kris Gough, spokeswoman for Treasurer John Brumby, said a large proportion of the 2655 aditional public servants were engaged in direct service provision to the community as Environment Protection Agency staff, court officers and National Parks and Wildlife officers. "The Bracks Government makes no apology for improving service delivery across Victoria through employing more frontline and support staff," she said. "The extra teachers and support staff in our schools have enabled us to reduce average class sizes in Prep to Grade 2 to 21, improve retention rates of secondary students and improve literacy and numeracy. "The wages paid to senior executives in the Victorian Public Service are not excessive. "The Treasurer has made it clear that there is no room for wage outcomes comparable to those in the Bracks Government's first term. "There was an element of catch-up in those wage agreements, to recruit and retain people in sectors that had been slashed and demoralised by the previous Kennett Government." Ms Gough said that consultancy expenditure for Victorian Government Departments decreased by 35 per cent from 1998-99 to 2001-02. She said efficiency savings of $141 million would be found across departments in 2003-04, rising to $167 million.

From Melbourne Herald Sun, Australia, 10 May 2003

Over 2000 Taking Civil Service Exam Today

Pondicherry - A total of 2,006 candidates will appear for Civil Service Examination being held simultaneously in Pondicherry on May 18. A communication from the Director of Education, G. Theva Needhi Dhas, who is the Assistant Coordinating Supervisor of the Examination, said the examination would be held on May 18 in four centers - Bharathidasan Government College for Women, Petit Seminaire HSS, St Patrick's Matriculation HSS and Government Tagore Arts College. The Secretary to Revenue Department-cum-District Collector, A. Anbarasu, is the coordinating supervisor. The Under Secretary to UPSC, New Delhi, A.K. Sood, was camping here to oversee the arrangements. The candidates would avail themselves of free bus services between 7 am and 8.30 a.m. and also at 4.30 p.m. from exam centres.

FromThe Hindu, India, 19 May 2003

UT to Play Safe for Civil Services Examination

Chandigarh - With the PPSC, CBSE and PMT scandals exposing loopholes in the system, the UT Administration has decided to play safe for the preliminary examinations of Civil Services scheduled to be held on May 18 (Sunday). Sources say that at a high level review meeting that held today, elaborate arrangements have been made by the Administration in this regard. In all, candidates would be appearing at the 28 centres marked for the exam in the city. The city, being the second centre after Delhi in north, as many as 20,000 candidates are expected to appear for the preliminary exams. Candidates from Haryana, Punjab, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir will be taking their papers here. Ten officers appointed as coordinators by the Administration will be overseeing the entire arrangements for the exam. These officers will personally take the papers and answersheets from the UT Secretariat and hand them over to the superintendents of various centres. Once both papers are finished, these officers will personally deliver the unanswered answersheets back to the Secretariat. Each officer will be heading two to three centres and will continuously keep a check. No one will be allowed to enter the centres except the officers on duty and the candidates. The Administration has also made sure that all the centres are properly lighted and have drinking water. Massive police arrangements have also been made. Around 450 police personnel have been put on duty for the scheduled day. Reportedly, ten police personnel will be posted (one SI or ASI, two head constables and seven constables) at each centre. All 11 SHOs have been directed to patrol the area around each centre to keep a check.


From Chandigarh Newsline, India, 16 May 2003

Idle Civil Servants Face Sacking

Jakarta - More than two million Indonesian civil servants are unproductive and unprofessional and will face the sack unless they shape up, a minister said. Feisal Tamin, state minister for administrative reform, said 53 percent of the country's four million civil servants are unproductive and do not work professionally. Tamin, quoted by the state Antara news agency late Wednesday, said the government has already set aside funds to lay off the unproductive officials. Tamin also said the government would launch an early retirement programme in an effort to cut the number of civil servants. It was not clear if the total refers to officials with provincial administrations as well as the national government. In February President Megawati Sukarnoputri also rapped civil servants, whom she said performed badly and were frequently absent from work.

From Borneo Bulletin, Brunei, 15 May 2003

CSC Sets Civil Service Exams

The Civil Service Commission (CSC) will hold Career Service examinations to all qualified examinees on different dates this year. The Career Service Executive Examination (CSEE) is open to applicants of third level positions or second-level positions starting from Salary Grade 18, senior inspector and higher positions at the Philippine National Police (PNP), and captain and higher positions at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). CSEE is also open to those who come from the private sector, provided that one is not more than 60 years old on the date of the application and holds a managerial/supervisory position or a masters degree. The CSEE exam is scheduled on June 8. On the other hand, there are also career service examinations for all applicants wishing to qualify for government service. College units are no longer a requirement. For the computer-assisted test (CAT) which is scheduled once daily at 10:30 a.m., one can take it for a fee of P250. Special arrangements can be made if there is a sufficient number of examinees. For the two paper-and-pencil tests (CSE-PPT) scheduled on July 20, 2003, the fee is P200. Deadline for applications is on June 8, 2003. Applicants must bring four of their latest ID pictures of identical passport size with nametag, taken within three months before their application. Pictures, which are scanned, photocopied or printed from the computer, will not be accepted.

From Mindanao Times, Philippines, 21 May 2003

New Civil Service Course in Hong Kong on Mainland Systems to Be Launched

The Hong Kong government said Monday that it will strengthen its civil service training courses to enable civil servants to acquaint themselves with various aspects of the Chinese mainland. The Hong Kong government said Monday that it will strengthen its civil service training courses to enable civil servants to acquaint themselves with various aspects of the Chinese mainland. Starting from next year, the Civil Service Bureau will be offering a new Beijing University National Studies program for senior civil servants, said a document issued by the bureau. "This two-week program will be similar to the Tsinghua course which provides participants with a general introduction to the mainland's systems. Two such courses will be organized each year," it said. Speaking at the Hong Kong Legislative Council's public service panel meeting Monday to discuss the National Studies programs, Permanent Secretary for the Civil Service Rebecca Lai said that the Civil Service Bureau of the Hong Kong government will closely monitor the quality of such courses to ensure that the students will truly benefit from attending them. "For us, we feel the training we offer is a tool. We hope that our colleagues who have taken part can gain something, and such things should be those in accordance with the targets and goals we have set..., particularly as our colleagues have taken time out for such courses," she said.

The document also said the Civil Service Bureau will also organize more theme-based seminars to keep our civil servants in touch with the latest developments on the mainland. "It is important to keep our civil servants abreast of contemporary developments in the mainland and to sustain our efforts in building up closer ties between Hong Kong's civil servants and their mainland counterparts. "We will endeavor to make our National Studies programs more robust in the years to come," it said. The main objectives of organizing the National Studies programs are to enable the civil servants in Hong Kong at various levels to acquire knowledge about the developments on the mainland, with particular reference to its political, social, economic and legal systems, and to equip them with the skills required for effective interaction with mainland officials, the document said. Existing programs include familiarization visits, National Studies course at Tsinghua University and the Advanced National Studies course at the National School of Administration in Beijing, it said.

From People's Daily Online, China, 19 May 2003

Public Servants to Be Allowed to Form Union

Civil servants will be allowed to form unions from as early as next year, but will be barred from taking collective action. The law, being pushed by the government, would take effect from the first half of 2004 if passed at the National Assembly by the end of this year as planned, according to the Labor Ministry. Under the new proposal, civil servants are allowed to call their organization a union, a point of contention with the previous administrations. In addition, while allowed to assemble and bargain, their unions will not be authorized to bargain over the government's budget-forming and law-making processes, according to ministry sources. The unions will not have the right to take collective action in consideration of the public servants' status in society and public security. They will be able to forge alliances with other labor groups, but will be barred from engaging in any political activities. The proposed law replaces an earlier version presented by the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, which banned the use of the word "union'' and suspended formation of such groups until January 2006. "Our draft of the law widely meets the demands of the public workers and it does not fall behind (similar laws of) other countries,'' a ministry official said. "We will go through the process of forming a public consensus before going to the National Assembly,'' he said.

However, members of the Korea Public Officer Labor Union (KPOLU) are trying to decided whether to go on all-out strike in a vote scheduled between May 22 and 23, in what is likely to lead to another labor-government standoff. "The Labor Ministry's draft is far from living up to our expectations. We are not hesitant to go against the ministry's draft unless it ensures all of the three major labor rights including the right for collective activities,'' KPOLU spokesman Kim Jong-su said. In a response to the KPOLU's hard-line stance toward the government-suggested draft, the Ministry of Government Administration yesterday decided to adopt a get-tough policy against any illegal collective activities. Meanwhile, employees of the central government will have a national union at each government agency while those at local governments will form regional organizations, according to the government's new draft. Those in specially appointed or political posts, and employees in management and operational departments are barred from joining the union. The move came months after Kim Doo-kwan, government administration minister, said he was considering allowing the use of the word "union'' for public servants' organizations. There are currently two unofficial public servants' unions, formally recognized as civil servants' federations or organizations.

The government currently outlaws any collective activities by the unofficial unions. The KPOLU was launched last year by the Association of Korea Government Officials, another major public employees' organization, followed by the Korean Government Employees' Union, which includes the Korean Association of Government Employees' Work Councils, nationwide organizations consisted of low-ranking public servants. The government, which prohibits public servants from engaging in union Civil servants have long been prohibited from forming unions due to their social status as so-called public servicemen. While civil servants' unions have recently been inaudibly tolerated, they were not allowed to bargain over anything nor be involved in collective actions. However, it remains to be seen whether the government is prepared to treat civil servants' unions as genuine partners with whom it can negotiate possible reforms. Unions of civil servants have a long history in some advanced countries such as Germany and the Netherlands. In France and England, their collective activities are allowed while they are prohibited in Japan and some 40 states of the United States. yoodh@koreatimes.co.kr

From Korea Times, Korea, 20 May 2003

Civil Servants Urged To Be More Courteous

Bintulu - Civil servants are urged to be courteous and patient when dealing with the public, especially those from rural areas. Bintulu Parliament Member Dato Seri Tiong King Sing said most rural folks did not know how to read and write. Hence, civil servants were obliged to explain to them patiently and politely on how to go about processing things in the department, he added. He reminded those in the civil services that they served the Barisan Nasional government, and it was entrusted upon them to serve in the interest of the people. Tiong said this at the closing ceremony of the Oratory contest, which was jointly organised by the Bintulu-Miri Information Service Department, Bintulu Resident Office and Neighbourhood Committee of Kidurong Low Cost Housing Estate here yesterday. Earlier, Tiong also asked the Neighbourhood Committee to be more active in assisting the police in their fight against crimes in their areas. He proposed taking turns patrolling housing estates in the evening as part of a preventive measure as the police are facing a shortage of manpower. In order to implement the programme successfully, he contributed RM10,000 to the Neighbourhood Committee, which would be used to purchase vest, T-shirts, food and drinks for those involved in night patrol. Later Tiong gave away prizes to the five finalists in the Oratory contest.

From Borneo Bulletin, Brunei, by Marie Sitong, 20 May 2003

WA Government to Axe 770 Public Service Jobs

The West Australian government is shedding 770 public service positions, but not one person will be forced to leave their job, Premier Geoff Gallop said today. Dr Gallop said the restructure will save millions of dollars, with the savings going into the core areas of health, education and police. "What we are talking about here is making sure that our public sector is refocused into those most important areas of health, education and police," Dr Gallop said. "We are going to have more teachers, we are going to have more nurses, and we are going to have more police officers." He said the 770 positions will be lost through natural attrition; redeployment and voluntary severance. Those wanting to take voluntary redundancy will be offered a sweetener. "We have improved the severance offer that we put to our public servants," he said. Dr Gallop vowed that not one West Australian public servant would be forced to leave their job." There will be no forced redundancies in the public sector under my government," he said. Dr Gallop said that because 3500 people leave the West Australian public sector every year, the government should be able to comfortably achieve its goal.

From The West Australian, Australia, 21 May 2003

Civil Service Response to NWC Recommendations

The Government is reducing Civil Service mid-year variable payments and monthly salaries in response to the recommendations by the National Wages Council (NWC) and in consultation with Civil Service unions. The NWC has recommended wage cuts for SARS-affected industries to save jobs, wage restructuring for industries facing difficult industry conditions, and wage freeze for most other companies affected by the general economic uncertainty. In line with these recommendations, there will be no adjustment to Civil Service monthly salaries this year. The mid-year payments for all civil servants will be reduced. In addition, in order to set the example for the economy at a difficult time, monthly salaries for Political / Statutory / Judicial Appointment Holders and senior civil servants will be further reduced. Together with the cuts made in Nov 2001, annual salaries (monthly salaries plus annual variable components) of these officers in the Ministerial and Superscale grades will be reduced by 24-29%. Reduction in Mid-Year Payments - Civil servants will receive a 0.25-month mid-year Annual Variable Component (AVC) in Jul 2003.

This is half the mid-year AVC paid last year, and is the smallest mid-year AVC since AVC was first introduced in the Civil Service in the 1980s. The Government will decide on the year-end payment for civil servants when Singapore's economic performance in the second half of 2003 is clearer. Reduction in Monthly Salaries for Political / Judicial / Statutory Appointment Holders and Administrative Service Officers In Nov 2001, the Government reduced the gross monthly salaries for Political / Statutory / Judicial Appointment Holders and Administrative Service officers by 10%. The Government will further reduce the gross monthly salaries for this group for 12 months, starting from 1 Jul 2003. The reduction is 10% for officers in the Ministerial grades, 5-9% for officers in the Superscale grades, and 1-4% for officers in the Timescale grades. Review of Civil Service Starting Salaries - Over the next few months, the Public Service Division will also review Civil Service starting salaries, as market data becomes available. This is part of the government's ongoing process to align Civil Service pay with the private sector.

From Channel News Asia, Singapore, 22 May 2003

Civil Service Pay Cut Shows What Needs To Be Done, Say DPMs

Singapore leaders say the Civil Service pay cut shows what needs to be done in Singapore's harshest economic situation to make the economy competitive. Speaking at separate events, the two Deputy Prime Ministers say it is right that ministers lead the way with the largest cuts. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lee Hsien Loong was at the launch of Singapore Customs. Top civil servants at the launch are among those most affected by the wage cuts. "Whatever we do, people will say deeper, more - this is to be expected. We do what we think is right," he said. "For the government, we've gone beyond the wage freeze to say we are going to take a wage cut with the AVC. On top of that, ministers will take a 10 percent cut. We will show the way." The civil service wage cut will save S$70 million for the Government. But Mr. Lee feels what is critical is not the quantum saved, but that it is a symbolic gesture for the rest of Singaporeans.

At a Defence Science Organisation event, Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan, who is also Defence Minister, made the same point. "The ministerial pay cut is a signal to the nation, to employers, to workers as to what is necessary. By itself it will not solve the problem but it shows what needs to be done. We must take substantial steps to lower our cost base in Singapore," Dr Tan said. It was relatively easy for the government to adjust wages because of the variable or bonus element in pay. In the private sector, most companies can adjust their annual bonuses, but few have a monthly variable component. Mr. Lee says this is critical so that wages can be adjusted during tough times, and companies don't have to retrench workers. And he says companies have to move away from a seniority-based wage system. "We have just let things go and the economy has been kind to them and they have cruised along, but I think this is a year when we cannot afford to just cruise along," he said. On how his family will cope with his pay cut, Mr. Lee replied, "You have to travel less, eat less, spend less and it's not just me. I know I have done this. But the children must also do this. And maybe I should adjust their pocket money."

From Channel News Asia, Singapore, by Debra Soon, 23 May 2003

Pay Cut For Ministers, Top Civil Servants

Singapore's ministers and top civil servants will take a monthly pay cut of up to 10% for a year from July, as the city-state grapples with what could well turn out to be one of its most severe economic downturns, the Straits Times reports. The cut in monthly pay will affect the top 400 officers in the 60,000-strong civil service, the report says, quoting the Public Service Division. The pay cut, on top of an earlier one in November 2001, will mean that civil servants' annual salaries would have fallen between 24% and 29% in the last two years. The decision was in response to recommendations by the National Wages Council and in consultation with the Civil Service unions, the report says. The NWC Wednesday issued guidelines recommending wage cuts for firms affected by the SARS outbreak, wage restructuring for firms facing difficult industry conditions and a wage freeze for most other companies hit by general economic uncertainty. Web site: http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg (by Singapore bureau, Dow Jones Newswires; 65-6415-4156; hong.shen@dowjones.com).

From Yahoo News, 22 May 2003

Bill Grants Civil Servants Labor Union

The government yesterday drafted a new bill to allow low-ranking civil servants to form a labor union next year. Officials said the proposed law adopts a more lenient stance toward workers than the one it is hoped to replace. But rank-and-file government employees railed against the new bill, saying that it still fails to meet their demand for more labor rights. The new bill, drafted by the Office of Government Policy Coordination, bans the union from engaging in any collective actions and limits its collective bargaining rights. Ministry officials said they expect the bill to pass through the National Assembly in the second half of this year and to take effect as early as the first half of next year. It replaces an earlier version initiated last October by the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, which denied the organization the use of the word "labor union" in its title and suspended its launch until January 2006. Officials said the new draft accommodates many of the civil servants' demands. It permits the "labor union" title, advances the timing of enforcement and permits the union to act in alliance with other labor organizations.

The bill grants public servants the right to assemble and bargain collectively, while prohibiting them from engaging in collective actions and political activities. It also prohibits high-ranking government officials from joining the organization. The Korean Government Employees' Union, which has been campaigning for a full-fledged labor union of civil servants, demanded a guarantee of the union's right to engage in collective actions and wanted all government officials to be granted entrance to the organization. The group said its 85,000 members will vote Thursday and Friday on whether to stage a strike against the government bill. The organization was launched in March last year but has yet to acquire legal status as a labor union. Negotiations between the government and workers collapsed last June. A senior ministry official said it will push ahead with the legislation despite the workers' opposition. "The government broadly accepted their demand and the labor rights it guarantees do not fall behind those of other countries," the official said.

From Korea Herald, Korea, by Hwang Jang-jin, (jjhwang@koreaherald.co.kr), 20 May 2003

Civil Servants Get Higher Hotel Allowances

Kuala Lumpu: Civil servants under the Malaysian Remuneration System (SSM) will enjoy an increase in domestic hotel and lodging allowances when performing official duties outside their home base, effective from Sunday. According to the rates and conditions announced by the Treasury, the increase, especially for the 30,000 staffers in the support group, will see officers in the 17 to 40 salary grades enjoy a raise in their hotel allowances from RM80 to RM100. Their lodging allowances will be raised from RM27 to RM35. For Grades One to 16, hotel claims will jump from RM70 to RM80 and there will be a RM6 increase in lodging allowance to RM30. Officers in the 41 to 44 grade range will see their lodging allowances increase from RM42 to RM55, Grades 45 to 52 from RM54 to RM60, Grades 53 and 54 from RM60 to RM70 and for Superscale B and C officers, their lodging allowances will be raised by RM5 to RM75. However, the hotel allowances for all grades from 41 and above remain unchanged. The circular stated that the raise affects only those under SSM while staff under the New Remuneration Scheme (SSB) will continue to claim their allowances according to their grades. Cuepacs president Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam, in a statement yesterday, thanked the Government for approving the raise. However, all the new rates do not apply to military and police personnel.

From Star, Malaysia, 28 May 2003

Guidelines in Employing Minors in Public Service Announced

Following the ratification of the 1st Amendment to Law no: 9/91 (Law on the Protection of the Rights of Children), which raised the age of majority from 16 years to 18 years, the government has announced guidelines for compliance in employing youths under the age of 18 in public service. According to a directive issued by the President's Office, a youth who had not reached 18 years of age should be employed only after obtaining the written consent of his guardian. Further, the employer is prohibited from assigning to a minor any work that could adversely affect his or her physical and moral well-being and the education. In all cases, however, the salary should be the same as that given to an adult in the same job. The guidelines also rule out the employment of such youths, whether on temporary or permanent basis, in certain types of jobs. The prohibited employment include hiring by the National Security Service, jobs that require handling of hazardous chemicals or combustible material or working in a hazardous environment, occupations that require driving a motor vehicle or vessel, jobs that provide access to images and documents that are inappropriate for viewing by minors, and all jobs in the fields of construction and carpentry, save those which are exclusively clerical. Hiring of minors for work involving welding or climbing high places, as well as for work as guards, watchers, and occupations involving handling of heavy equipment are also prohibited under the guidelines. The directive also requires that employers observe the new guidelines in employing students without pay for the purpose of fulfilling the school's requirement of gaining work experience.

From Haveeru Daily, Maldives, 28 May 2003

 

 

Public Service Broadcasts Hit

Sky Digital viewers are shunning public service programming broadcast by the BBC, ITV1 and Channel 4, according to a report published yesterday. Ratings - for children's programmes on terrestrial television drop 81% in households with Sky and the pay-TV network's 6.6m subscribers virtually abandon religious programmes, while current affairs and arts programmes are also underperforming. The figures underline the struggle facing terrestrial broadcasters as they compete with multi-channel rivals which have no public service obligations and can provide a steady diet of entertainment, music and movies. Despite the increased choice on offer, people in digital homes spend more time watching the same type of sport, movies and soaps, according to research from consultancy Human Capital. The ratings for arts and news programmes on the main five channels fall by two-thirds when viewers sign up to the BSkyB-owned service. Last week, for the second consecutive week, the number of multichannel viewers was greater than the total for BBC1 and ITV1. Religious shows, which ITV1 and Channel 4 must produce under the terms of their licence, suffer most when viewers have Sky, with audiences falling 84%. However, while viewers stop watching traditional public service programming genres, they continue to tune in for top soaps, sport and music. These genres lose popularity in Sky homes but viewing for soaps falls just 26%, sport drops 36% and entertainment declines 47%. Multichannel homes account for almost half the TV viewers in Britain.

From Guardian, UK, by Owen Gibson, 2 May 2003

Public Service Hiccups

The rows have only just started - A government which asked to be judged on how well it delivers public services is facing a torrid week. Headteachers in York have been giving ministers a hard time: demanding the abolition of league tables, the scrapping of national tests at seven and suggesting a shortfall in funding will make it impossible to implement the recently signed workload agreement, designed to give teachers more guaranteed preparation and marking time by making more use of teaching assistants. Education officials have only three weeks to trace the missing £590m, which ministers say has been held back from school budgets by local councils, before redundancy notices start going out. Meanwhile, as our social affairs editor reported yesterday, the government has axed a national scheme that could have saved the NHS up to £500m in administration costs because it clashes with moves to give foundation hospitals more freedom. The crucial vote on the controversial hospitals, criticised by more than 100 Labour MPs, is taken tomorrow. What's going on? Put simply, a clash of cultures, made more complex by conflicting values on the left, and complicated by serious administrative mistakes in the distribution of record amounts of government funds.

To take the last, first. Labour is rightly seeking to adjust the funding of local government so that more money reaches poorer areas. But unlike the health service, where a similar exercise took place within primary care without chaos, education officials stand indicted of poor staff work. Clearly the squeezes have been more serious than sensible. Even ministers are now advising schools to avoid unnecessary redundancies by deficit budgets. The call to abolish national tests and league tables was answered by David Bell, the chief inspector of schools, who maintained his support for tests because schools should be accountable and parents had a right to know how well they were performing. Not much joy there, then, for the teaching unions, though the chief inspector has warned in the past of the danger of ministers setting unobtainable goals and demoralising the teaching profession. To be fair to David Hart, the headteachers' leader, he did tell his members a boycott would be illegal because it would be based on philosophical opposition rather than a dispute about conditions of service. More clashes are to come as ministers seek more devolved services with more choice and diversity.

A health secretary who helped create the most centrally driven service in NHS history has discovered it cannot be steered from the centre. Ministers will not let go in this government - they have invested too much credibility in meeting their ambitious targets - but it will come with a rush in a third Labour term, raising questions of equity and public ambivalence over locally run services. Localism has support in principle, but most polls show overwhelming opposition to post code services, not just in health but even in street cleaning and street lighting. One obvious attraction of devolved services is that it devolves blame. But foundation hospitals have another political attraction for Labour - they pre-empt similar moves by the Tories. The issue, however, has been blown out of proportion to the scale of the change. It has become totemic: both sides should scale down the rhetoric. In terms of reform, the health inspectors, the checks by the national institute for clinical excellence on new drugs and equipment, and the new clinical guidance on key diseases are all far more important.

From AllAfrica.com, 5 May 2003

Government to Lay Off 20,000 Public Servants

Amsterdam - Employee unions have reacted with indignation at plans to lay off 20,000 public servants during the lifetime of the next coalition cabinet in a move designed to cut government costs. The Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 have reached an agreement in coalition talks to reduce the ministerial budget by 16 percent to save EUR 700 million in four years, political sources said. CDA Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende moved fast on Thursday morning to minimise the impact of the report. He said "20,000 is going too far" and the actual number would be less. D66 leader Boris Dittrich also said he was not in favour of such as high cut. The Education and Defence Ministries will be saved from any cuts, as will public safety initiatives, meaning that some government ministries face cuts above the 16 percent average, newspaper De Volkskrant reported. But public service unions have slammed the plan, directing vocal criticism to caretaker Home Affairs Minister Johan Remkes and warning they could move to block the announced job cuts.

A spokeswoman for the Abvakabo union, Elise Merlijn, said the minister was attacking public servants without taking responsibility for implementing a sound safety net for laid-off workers. The Volkskrant said the new government is not in favour of ministries using the "cheese slicer method" to cut costs. Instead ministerial bureaus and services will be scrapped, a recruitment freeze will be placed on the ministries and forced redundancies will occur. The new coalition cabinet will also forbid ministries contracting in new external advisors and services in the coming few years to prevent them trying to win back lost ground. The new Interior Minister will be in charge of closely supervising the new regime. It is also probable that this minister - besides the fight against government bureaucratisation - will control the political reform planned in the new government term. The likely candidate for this post is former D66 leader Thom de Graaf, who is also expected to be appointed to one of the two deputy prime minister positions.

The cabinet is faced with a grim task of slashing costs amid a gloomy economic climate to reduce the deficit or even balance the budget by 2007. The government's macroeconomic advice bureau, CPB, has estimated the Dutch economy will grow just 0.75 percent this year and 1.75 next year, in contrast to the EU average of 1.25 percent in 2003 and 2.75 percent next year. All parties are aware of the need to cut costs and VVD leader Gerrit Zalm - who made an important promise during the election campaign in the lead up to the 22 January election to streamline bureaucratic regulations - also said in coalition negotiations that he especially wants to cut services that supervise outdated regulations. After the May 2002 election, the coalition between the CDA, VVD and populist LPF announced it intended to cut 10,000 public service jobs to save nine percent of the ministerial budget. But that government collapsed after 87 days in power and the plan has been scrapped in favour of the new proposal to cut 20,000 jobs.

From Expatica, Netherlands, 8 May 2003

Civil Servants Accuse Ministers of Piling on Tasks and Pressure

Top civil servants are set to warn against the perils of "initiative-itis" and unrealistic deadlines for reform at their annual conference on Thursday. A motion put to the conference of the Association of First Division Civil Servants urges ministers "to recognise that highly undesirable consequences can ensue from sacrificing quality in favour of speed", and entreats managers "to recognise that new tasks cannot simply be piled on top of old". The motion, caustically entitled "Delivery and Realistic Priorities", is expected to win the conference's approval. It underscores the strain placed on senior civil servants and their staff by the government's ambitious plans to transform the delivery of frontline services. The central complaint of the motion is not against the government's ambition, but against what many civil servants see as the plethora of initiatives, which this ambition has spawned - all of them packed into a tight schedule.

The motion touches a nerve by warning: "Ministers' emphasis on "delivery" unaccompanied by planned and effective long-term prioritisation of objectives within and across central government departments is leading to unacceptable pressures on staff, and a worsening culture of long-hours working, which is counter productive to the provision of good public service. "Complaints about long working hours are embarrassing for a government which, at the behest in particular of Patricia Hewitt, trade and industry secretary, has launched an offensive on management's alleged poor record on work-life balance. The government is also unlikely to welcome the FDA's call for departments "to employ additional resources (whether external or internal) to carry out additional tasks where others cannot be given a lower priority". Civil service staff numbers rose above 500,000 last year for the first time in six years, as more staff were recruited to deal with initiatives such as the tax credits and employment pilot programmes. The government is likely to resist boosting civil service spending further. The motion, which also encourages staff "to say that resources do not allow an additional task to be taken on within proposed timescales", was put forward by the legal section of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

From Financial Times, UK, by David Turner, 13 May 2003

Microsoft Grasps at Public Sector

Paris - As Europe faces a deadline of 2005 to get services for its citizens available on the Internet, Microsoft Corp. is fighting hard to capture a bigger share of the public sector's business for computer software and services. Microsoft is especially determined not to let a groundswell of support for free computer software erode its sales. This so-called open-source software, which originated in Finland and is popularly called Linux, is capturing more government clients as commercial customers have cut back spending on technology - making the public sector an even more valuable target for Microsoft. Besides aggressive discounting over the past year, Microsoft has taken other steps to try to keep government business: To convince governments that Microsoft, and its computer code, are trustworthy, the company is giving them a closer look at how Windows software works at its core. This year, a few countries, including Britain, Russia and China, have signed up for the program. In December, Microsoft hired a longtime European Commission technology policy official, Detlef Eckert, as a senior director for its European headquarters in Paris. Simon Witts, vice president for sales and marketing for Microsoft in Europe, said bringing Eckert on board was intended in part to help the company's relations with government. Last year, Microsoft joined a U.S.-based lobbying group, the Initiative for Software Choice, which from its Brussels office is working to persuade European governments not to push open-source software in legislation. "It's definitely a concern for Microsoft," Thomas Meyer, an analyst in London for International Data Corp., a market research and consulting firm, said of the public sector's appetite for open-source software.

In more than 70 cases around the world, governments have taken some action to encourage or require the use of open-source software in government business. The reason most often cited is to cut costs, but in some cases it is also to promote local software businesses and increase the security of government systems. Such government proposals, which are sometimes cast ideologically as opposition to dependence on American software or to the dominance of Microsoft itself, began as early as 2000 and continue to gain momentum: In February, a Belgian agency proposed mandating the use of open-source software. In March, two regional governments in Spain approved a decree favoring free software. By the end of this year, the southern German city of Schwaebisch Hall will be entirely run on open-source software. nd the European Commission, in numerous documents promoting an "eEurope" by 2005, calls for the wider use of open-source software by member governments. Mostly, the focus of attention is Linux, a computer operating system that is shared freely, owned by no single company and developed by volunteers. Companies such as SuSE Linux AG in Germany make money packaging and customizing Linux software and selling services to support it. Microsoft has recognized the threat from Linux since 1998, when leaked internal documents showed that the company saw open-source software as "a direct, short-term revenue and platform threat to Microsoft, particularly in server space," or system software for servers, powerful computers that run networks.

But today, European governments are moving to meet the European Union's 2005 deadline to get their public services online, and "a lot of decisions are being made now for the next several years," said Meyer, the International Data analyst in London. That business, particularly in the midst of a broad technology slump, is not something Microsoft wants to lose. Already since 2000, Linux's share of the worldwide server software market has climbed to 26 percent from virtually nothing five years ago. Microsoft's share of server-software shipments last year was 44 percent, according to International Data. In Western Europe, Microsoft Windows has 57 percent of the market, compared with Linux's 15 percent and Unix's 17 percent. International Data's forecast for 2007 puts Windows at 50 percent, Linux at 33 percent and Unix at 14 percent. "They're paying much more attention to governments because of the higher resilience of this market to slowdowns," said Massimiliano Claps, an analyst for International Data in Milan. In Western Europe, the public sector, including health care and education, will spend $33.5 billion on hardware, software and technology services this year, International Data estimates. Claps said governments were expected to raise their information-technology spending much more than other sectors such as banking or retailing. In particular, electronic services for citizens, electronic purchasing, and networking within government will grow at double-digit rates over the next three or four years before peaking in 2004 or 2005.

This year's Government Security Program from Microsoft was designed to gain governments' trust by letting them look at Windows source code, as some corporate customers also do. The company calls it a "crucial element of Microsoft's efforts to address the unique requirements of governments around the world." "Fundamentally," Jean-Philippe Courtois, chairman of Microsoft's European operations, said at a forum in Paris this year, "it is to give access to Windows code so that governments, which are so critical to enabling security of information systems, can actually trust Microsoft and the building blocks of our platform." Courtois added, "There's so much mystery about what we are doing, especially in Europe, as an American company - is there a back door for the American security services?" Microsoft has denied such a notion. The legislation being considered is in part to address the trust issue. But the Initiative for Software Choice, whose corporate roster is led by Microsoft, contends that no legislation is called for. "Open-source software is doing very well in the marketplace," said Bob Kramer, executive director of the lobbying group, which is based in Washington and affiliated with the Computer Technology Industry Association. "Let the best software win. The best software is the one that fits the circumstances, not one based on a pre-established preference."

David Smith, vice president of Gartner Inc., a U.S.-based research and consulting firm, said many countries were acting in the belief that they thereby could "avoid having to export increasing amounts of their gross domestic product to U.S.-based companies." Meyer, the International Data analyst in London, said: "If you're looking at it from the application perspective, that's definitely true. With Linux, all applications are opportunities for smaller local vendors to customize." But, noting a concern raised in Microsoft's antitrust cases, he added: "That would be a very dangerous position for a government to take because they will still be a major customer of Microsoft one way or the other. I'm not sure you'd want to alienate a large provider." Claps at International Data said: "Government still has its traditional problem of being a large and bureaucratic machine. Governments raise many concerns with vendors because they have many constituencies. They have too many shareholders." Courtois, the Microsoft European operations chairman, said: "Our image has been challenged in Europe. We are perceived in the broad population as very innovative, very positive. But in specific communities - the government elite, IT professionals, developers - we have some challenges." And then there is the European antitrust case: "It would help relations with governments to get this behind us," he said in February.

From International Herald Tribune, by Victoria Shannon. 14 May 2003

Treasury Blames Civil Servants for Pensions Shortfall Blunder

The Treasury last night blamed civil servants for a Government blunder that left more than 10 million people in the dark about shortfalls in their state pension entitlements. Dawn Primarolo, the Paymaster General, issued a statement palming off responsibility for the fiasco on to bureaucrats, claiming ministers had not been informed. The Telegraph disclosed on Thursday how the system for alerting employees to gaps in their National Insurance contributions had broken down in 1998. Since the fiasco was exposed, the Inland Revenue switchboard has been jammed with calls from people worried that they have not made sufficient contributions. As a result of a malfunctioning new computer system, officials decided to suspend the annual round of reminder notices for those workers who had not paid enough to qualify for the weekly state pension. Every employee must earn £4,625 a year before National Insurance contributions are deducted. The introduction of the NIRS2 computer system caused havoc in the Department for Social Security and forced officials to redeploy staff on essential services.

Amid the chaos, a decision was taken to suspend the notification system for pension contribution arrears. In her statement, Miss Primarolo confirmed that thereafter no notices were sent out for five years, leaving millions of workers unaware that their contributions were falling short. Miss Primarolo, the minister responsible for the Inland Revenue, confirmed the details of the Telegraph report in a written ministerial statement issued yesterday. She said the decision to suspend National Insurance contribution "deficiency notices" for the year 1996/97 was taken in 1998 by the Contributions Agency when it was part of the Department for Social Security. It is now part of the Inland Revenue. But she did not accept that ministers were to blame. "No minister was consulted or informed of this decision at the time the decision was taken in 1998. In fact ministers were informed of this decision in March this year," she said. "As soon as ministers were informed I instructed the Inland Revenue to publish a statement on their website informing people of this suspension, which they did on April 5, 2003, and I informed the House of Commons by written answer on April 11."

Last night David Willetts, shadow secretary of state for works and pensions, said: "This is a sad tale of incompetence and secrecy. According to today's statement from the Treasury, it's everyone's fault, from the DSS and the Contributions Agency to officials." Mr. Willetts accused ministers of "repeatedly failing to come clean" about the scale of the problems and, when they did admit the error, of not adequately explaining what it was they were trying to resolve. Miss Primarolo said that as soon as she had discovered the problem, she suspended the six-year time limit by which missing contributions had to be made up. She also froze the contribution rate to the level that would have applied at the time so no one ended up paying more.

From Daily Telegraph, UK, 16 May 2003

French Civil Servants March Over Pension Reform

Paris - French trade unions, divided over government plans to reform the state pension system, launched new strikes Monday that hit electricity output, schools and hospitals, though public transport ran normally. In Paris, some 100,000 protesters braved the rain to march against reforms that will push back the retirement age of many French workers from 60 at present, organizers said. Police estimates put the figure at 38,000. The Education Ministry said half of primary and nursery school teachers and around 40 percent of other teachers joined the walkout across the country, forcing school closures. Action by energy workers slashed French power exports by 30 percent. The large FDT union and the smaller CFE-CGC approved the pension reforms last week after winning government concessions. But five other unions, including the Communist-led CGT, have threatened wildcat strikes and a national day of protests on May 25 against plans to make people pay more and for longer into the state pension system to avoid a funding crunch. Postal workers, central bank employees and workers from state-controlled France Telecom joined Monday's strike. The opposition Socialists vowed at their congress at the weekend to reverse the reforms if they return to power and gave their blessing to the May 25 protests. But the Organization for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD) international think tank said Monday that even if the proposed reforms were passed they would not be enough in themselves to rescue the pension system.

From Reuters, UK, 19 May 2003

Warning Over Public Service Reforms

The head of the UK's top watchdog on public services has warned ministers not to race from one extreme to the other in handing power from Whitehall to frontline staff. Audit Commission chairman James Strachan said moving from "no faith to blind faith" in local workers would end in tears. Instead, regulators could help ensure there was "organisational ability" to ensure extra cash was well spent on a local level, he argued. His words of caution came as he unveiled a new survey suggesting the public trusts individual doctors and police officers, but their faith in the institutions which employ them is lower and falling. Mr. Strachan suggested reforming governments risk losing public trust because they raise expectations faster than improvements could be made. 'Risk paranoia' With its foundation hospital plans and other schemes, the current government has been putting more stress on giving more power to local workers in public services. As attention returned to the domestic agenda after the Iraq war, there would be frustration at lack of progress, he said. "The danger is we are going to race foolishly from one extreme to another," he continued. DISTRUST: Councils: 48%; Police: 24%; Hospitals: 18% (Source: Mori). Mr. Strachan criticised "risk paranoia" among those civil servants who concentrated too much on processes instead of outcomes. The best services were those who put consumers first.

In procurement deals too many people were "seeking comfort in the audit trail" but leaving "totally inadequate" outcomes, he said. The Audit Commission joined up with pollsters Mori for the new study into trust in public services. Identifying a difference between attitudes towards public servants and public institutions, it suggests that 91% of people trust doctors, while only 62% of people trust the NHS. Council trust problems Politicians and journalists are at the bottom of the public trust list, based on previous research, which is topped by doctors, teachers, and judges. Among public institutions, the new figures suggest 48% of people do not trust councils, compared to 24% for the police and 18% for hospitals. Mr. Strachan said: "As far as I can see, the double whammy of perceived bureaucracy joined up with politicians may go quite a long way to explaining why councils are far more distrusted than the police." He said a common response from those questioned in the survey was: "You trust the staff but you do not trust the bureaucrats behind them." Switching faiths Mr. Strachan said there were no magic answers to why trust in decline, but said public bodies had to be more honest and open. The media needed to do more to trumpet successes when they did occur. The Audit Commission chief said his watchdog would be publishing a report in the next fortnight showing "some quite significant advances" being made in the NHS.

But he predicted the headlines would focus on the negative aspects of the report. Media impact Mr. Strachan suggested the media was "constantly stamping on the little flower of public services that is trying to emerge". Ben Page, director of Mori's social research institute, said the new study showed the media did have a real impact on public trust. He cited how perception of the NHS had peaked on the weekend when there was a rush of positive newspaper articles about the 50th anniversary of the health service. But Mr. Page identified other ways the research showed public institutions could use to build trust: Deliver quality services; Keep promises - Say sorry when promises are broken and explain why it will not happen again. At the seminar, Matthew Taylor, director of leading think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research, underlined the need for a coherent rationale for why trust was important. Efforts to build up trust for tactical reasons, such as Labour's pre-election pledge cards, could prove counter-productive, he warned. Mr. Taylor pressed for a "democratic renaissance" to engage in the difficult trade-offs public institutions had to make. He suggested that appointing 50 "ordinary citizens" to the House of Lords could help the process, because they would be able to explain the difficulties of law-making.

From BBC, UK, by Ollie Stone-Lee, 21 May 2003

CBI Slams 'Snail's Pace' Public Service Reform

The Confederation of Business Institute (CBI) has attacked the government over the "snail's pace" of its public sector reforms. At the CBI annual dinner in London last night, Sir John told Chancellor Gordon Brown that the public investment programme had shown little return on the £6 billion annual rise in business taxes he claims the business sector has suffered since 1997.Sir John accused the government of an "organisational inability to spend money efficiently and bring about change", and "political dogma" within the trade union movement which is causing paralysis. The CBI has pointed to government figures showing public sector employment and output are going up at the same pace, suggesting productivity growth is negligible. However, Sir John stressed that business was "fully behind" the government's bid to improve public services through investment and reform. But he added: "At this event last year business was feeling bruised by the government's tax on job creation, the rise in national insurance. Since then our members have repeatedly expressed concern about the money being spent wisely."

Business recognises that years of under-investment in public services have to be overcome before we can really make progress. "Nonetheless, our assessment so far is there hasn't been enough to show for the funds being spent on our behalf. From transport to health services and local government, we are not getting bang for our hard-earned bucks. There is little sign of change on the ground." Public institutions are hamstrung by organisational inability to spend effectively, most strikingly on transport. Worse, the debate on using the private sector is bogged down in an internal family row in the Labour movement - even minor changes get branded as sinister privatisation plots." Sir John also made a wider appeal, saying that privatisation should not be tarred by what happened over the railways - adding that the private sector should have a role in managing the NHS. He concluded: "Chancellor, we in business are consumers, funders and providers of public services. We are four square behind your objectives. We urge you to ensure that this historic opportunity to deliver returns on our joint investment is not wasted."

From 4ni.co.uk, UK, 20 May 2003

French Civil Servants March Over Pension Reform

Paris - French trade unions, divided over government plans to reform the state pension system, launched new strikes on Monday which hit electricity output, schools and hospitals, though public transport ran normally. Some 335,000 people joined marches across the country to protest against reforms that will push back the retirement age of many French workers from 60 at present, police said. Organisers estimated the figure at 700,000, including 100,000 in Paris. The Education Ministry said half of primary and nursery school teachers and around 40 percent of other teachers joined the walkout, forcing school closures and the postponement of some high school exams. Action by energy workers slashed French power exports by 30 percent. The large FDT union and the smaller CFE-CGC approved the pension reforms last week after winning government concessions. But five other unions, including the Communist-led CGT, have threatened wildcat strikes and a national day of protest on May 25 against plans to make people pay more and for longer into the state pension system to avoid a funding crunch. Postal workers, central bank employees and workers from state-controlled France Telecom joined Monday's strike. The opposition Socialists vowed at their congress at the weekend to reverse the reforms if they return to power and gave their blessing to the May 25 protests. But the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) international thinktank said on Monday that even if the proposed reforms were passed they would not be enough to rescue the pension system.

From MSNBC, by Dominique Rodriguez, 19 May 2003

Public Service Reform Could Fail, Warns Watchdog

Government plans for improving public services could founder as ministers pour money into new devolved organisations such as foundation hospitals that might not be able to cope, the audit commission warned today. James Strachan, the head of the spending watchdog, said that the entire ministerial reform strategy could "end in tears" as ministers start to experiment with new structures for delivering services such as healthcare and housing. He singled out foundation hospitals, GP-led primary care trusts, new regional housing boards, public-private partnerships and even the relatively well-established regional development agencies as initiatives that might be poorly equipped to spend the government's new investment. He said there was a real risk that the government's frustration with the pace of reform in public services was leading it to move "from command and control and a battery of targets to pouring billions of pounds of public assets and funds into highly nascent structures". Foundation trusts might face particular problems, said Mr. Strachan, because of the government's decision to use hospital star ratings to decide who gets the new status.

The ratings examine matters such as cleanliness, waiting lists and clinical governance, and the audit commission chairman said that they were "not designed to decide whether something should become a foundation hospital". He called on ministers to launch an independent review of whether hospitals had the financial and managerial capacity to handle the new status, which frees NHS trusts from direct government control and grants new freedoms to borrow money and vary pay and conditions. The Department of Health is already undertaking an internal assessment, but Mr. Strachan said that an "open and transparent" enquiry was necessary. Speaking in an interview with the Financial Times, he also hit out at government plans for a new foundation hospital regulator, arguing that the audit commission and the new commission for healthcare audit and inspection could do the job themselves. The audit commission chairman described the new body as "potentially a significant waste of public money".

From Guardian, UK, by Simon Parker, 27 May 2003

 

Iraqi Civil Servants Fill in Job Forms and Worry Amid the Uncertainty

Baghdad - Putting their faith in anyone who claims to have authority, thousands of Iraqis formerly employed by Saddam Hussein are seeking jobs through a chaotic application process launched by the self-styled mayor of Baghdad. Over the past week, hordes of men and women have converged daily on the al-Uluweya Club in the centre of the Iraqi capital, desperate to get their hands on one of the poorly printed forms they believe may hold the key to their future. Mohammed Mohsen al-Zubaidi, whose authority is not recognised by the US, has issued the forms to be sold to job seekers for 250 dinars (about R1). Sales are brisk, with civil servants employed under Saddam anxious to know where their next pay packet might come from in postwar Iraq."I was a commander in the ministry of defence," says 55-year-old Abdul Karim. "The ministry is destroyed. This is all I can do." It does not look promising.Most of the men selling the forms apparently have no idea for whom they are working, or where the forms will end up. Some people worry it is a scam and say anyone could photocopy forms and pocket the sales price. "They are promising us jobs but we think it might be a trick," says fireman Anmar Adnan. "But for us there is no other solution." Jay Garner, the retired US general in charge of overseeing Iraq's reconstruction, has promised that civil servants would receive an emergency $20 payment to tide them over until proper salaries could be paid. But most ministries were damaged by missiles during the bombing or picked bare by looters when the city fell.

Employment records have been destroyed and piecing together the evidence may take time. Zubaidi, a former exile, said the applications were aimed at speeding the process of getting everyone back to work - except those with strong ties to Saddam's Baath Party. The forms have space for details of previous employment and for any previous role in the Baath Party, a section left blank by most nervous applicants. "We want people to tell us who they are, so we can see who deserves a job and can help rebuild the city," Zubaidi said, after a meeting yesterday with religious and tribal leaders and other city officials whom he said had elected him to his post. But without the backing of US officials overseeing the reconstruction of Iraq, the exercise may be fruitless. Aside from the cash that aides say Zubaidi confiscated from looters, the man who says he is leading a temporary civil administration would have difficulty generating the revenue needed to pay the thousands of civil servants. His position is not unusual in postwar Iraq, where local leaders have stepped into key roles and filled the power vacuum left by the collapse of Saddam's rule - in some cases without consulting local residents or in defiance of US forces. Many applicants seem to think they may be wasting their time, but completing the forms at least serves as a distraction from the uncertainty they face. "Every day I sit at home, worrying all the time," says 50-year-old Khalid, who worked in a state-run bank. "There is no rule here; we don't know what to do."

From Independent Online, 27 April 2003

Netanyahu Withdraws Lock-out Threat Against Civil Servants

The government is backing the Ministry of Finance director general's move to cut salaries of civil servants refusing to receive the public. An hour ago, the Ministry of Finance withdrew its threat to lock out civil servants who fulfill Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) orders to carry out labor sanctions. The Attorney General is studying the matter, in accordance with the cabinet decision at last Sunday's meeting. For now, the government is standing by Ministry of Finance director general Ohad Marani's announcement that the salaries of 4,000 civil servants and public employees who receive the public will be reduced. Civil Service Regulations allow the salaries of civil servants carrying out labor sanctions over an extended period to be reduced. Premiums, overtime, and payment of other expenses can be cancelled. In extreme cases, the Civil Service Regulations permit the salaries of civil servants who fail to fulfill their duties in accordance with the job descriptions to be reduced.

From Globes Online, Israel, by Zeev Klein, 8 May 2003

US Hands Out Emergency Cash to Iraq Civil Servants

Baghdad - US officials in Baghdad on Saturday doled out around 65,000 dollars in emergency payments for Iraqi civil servants who have not received their April salaries because of the war. Workers are being given 20 dollars each as the United States tries to entice employees back to their jobs and help stimulate the post-war economy after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The programme is being applied to civil servants across the public sector, and cash payments were made Saturday to employees of the justice and planning ministries. Donald Campbell, a judge who is one of the new US-appointed advisors to the Iraqi courts, handed Iraqi officials a stack of 50,600 dollars in cash, which was to be distributed to the 2,500 ministry staff. Campbell also delivered 20,000 dollars to help rebuild the run-down ministry headquarters. "It's a small gesture and we hope it will have a positive message," he said. Ministry employees, many of whom have been coming to the looted building without having any work to do, said the payment would not go far. "When the time comes, they will start paying the real salaries. With 20 dollars, you can't buy much," said Karim Zaydan, general director of the ministry's registry department.

Many Iraqis are angry at the pace of the rebuilding process since Saddam was toppled in Baghdad on April 9.At the planning ministry offices, staffer Iman Mahmud said it was the third time she had turned up. The other times, word that the payment was coming had turned out to be a rumour, she said. "This is just a fraction of my old salary. But it's better than nothing." Simon Elvy, the US advisor to the planning ministry, which oversees Iraq's centralised economy, said it was "entirely possible" civil servants could get a second payment if they are not paid by next month. "We are working very hard to get the salaries sorted out for the end of May," Elvy said. Around 700 planning ministry staff received the 20-dollar payment. The cash distribution programme was launched last month.

From Arab Times, Middle East, 10 May 2003

Public services returning to Baghdad

Baghdad - Law and order also means trash pickups and mail deliveries. Trying to defuse criticisms that it is not doing enough to restore basic public services, Iraq's U.S.-led administration began cleaning up the mountains of trash that have been piling up across Baghdad. About 360 tons of garbage have been hauled away in the past several days from the city's al-Thawra neighborhood, according to a statement Tuesday. That's about one-fourth of the amount of garbage on the streets. Coalition Joint Task Force also said explosives experts had cleared out unexploded munitions and hauled away enough weapons and ordnance to fill a 20-ton dump truck, and post offices in the city had started delivering mail. Complaints about the slow progress in restoring utilities, public services and re-establishing law and order more than a month after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein have soured relations between Iraqis and the new U.S. authorities. L. Paul Bremer, Iraq's new civilian administrator, has said his administration's top priorities are to improve security and to restore services like gasoline and electricity. Officials expect the rampant lawlessness and looting that have been endemic since Saddam's ouster to begin subsiding now that more than 7,000 Iraqi policemen have reported back to work.

From Canoe News, Canada, by Slobodan Lekic, 20 May 2003

Former Egyptian Finance Minister Sentenced Over Corruption

Officials said that the supreme state criminal court sentenced the former finance minister Mohey Eddine al-Gharib to eight year imprisonment with hard labor over accusations of embezzling public funds. The sentence was issued by the court which retried al-Gharib amid a tough campaign launched by the government against corruption, analysts said aimed at softening people's dissatisfaction with government officials. Officials at the court said that al-Gharib, minister of finance during 1996- 1999, will appeal before the first court of Cassation for the second time, as the government had retried al-Gharib with other individuals in the same case. Other three government's officials were retried and three businessmen with al-Gharib, after they had three appeals for the court of Cassation over sentences issued against them under several accusations including deliberate harm of the public funds, negligence, and falsifying official documents.

From Arabic News, 21 May 2003

Iraqi Civil Servants Get First Wages in Weeks

Baghdad - As Iraq's US administrators began paying wages to state employees for the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein, British officials in Basra announced the replacement of an Iraqi city council with technocrats. The payments to Iraq's civil workers, the first payment of back wages since the US coalition took control of the country on April 9, came amid increasing local frustration with the occupying forces. The first tranche of payments was delivered to staff representatives at a power station in south Baghdad. Another 28,000 power workers were due to be paid today. 'They are the first to get paid because they threatened to go on strike,' said Mr. Karim Wahid Hassan, the US- appointed electricity department head. Civil servants have protested almost daily outside the coalition administration headquarters in Saddam's main palace in the capital and the payments were meant to ease some of the popular frustration and anger with the occupation forces. In Basra, British forces announced they would replace an Iraqi city council hailed as a model of post-war cooperation with a committee of technocrats chaired by a British military commander.

From Straits Times, Singapore, 25 May 2003

 

Devotion to Public Service Leads to Scholarship

Midn. 2/C Jeffrey J. McLean is interested in a career of public service either in the military, government or as a volunteer. Truman Scholarships are for college juniors committed to public service careers. It seemed like the perfect fit to McLean and those who interviewed him for the scholarship. Four midshipmen were among the 635 candidates from more than 300 colleges and universities vying for the scholarship. McLean was one of 76 students selected. A member of the academy's Midshipman Action Group, McLean is already involved in community service. He works with Habitat for Humanity, Project Books for International Goodwill and GreenScape. A political science major, he's also interested in public policies ranging from farm subsidies to the economic interdependence of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. He wrote about the former as his public policy essay when he applied for the Truman Scholarship. He is writing about the later in his honors seminar. "It took almost three months to apply for the Truman Scholarship and write the public policy proposal," McLean said. "During that time, I was doing research and reading every article ever published about farm subsidies. "I was also making hundreds of corrections. At least 10 different times, maybe more, I thought I was done, and then I would revise it some more," he said. For McLean, it was more than writing an essay. "It was an examination of who I am and what I really believe in," he recalled.

McLean discovered he's someone who's passionate about helping others. He's also passionate about flying. His dad was a Navy pilot for six years and now flies for an airline. McLean and his brother, Mike, both have their pilots licenses. Mike will graduate from the academy in May and begin naval flight training at Pensacola, Fla., in June. McLean won a navigation trophy when the Navy Flying Team competed in the regional competition in Norfolk, Va., in October. The academy team won overall and will compete in the nationals in May. While his family watches his brother graduate from the academy and his flying teammates compete at nationals, McLean will be attending a weeklong leadership development program at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo. During the Truman Scholars Leadership Week, he will participate in activities designed to help him better understand public service, introduce him to graduate school programs and expose him to a wide range of service careers. "It's a trade-off," McLean said. "I have to keep my priorities straight. This is a big opportunity." This summer McLean also plans on going on an aviation cruise, interning in the Pentagon and serving as Delta Company commander during the second part of Plebe Summer.

Next year he will also be applying for the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships. At least three of McLean's mentors have garnered both Truman and Rhodes scholarships, so he knows it's possible, if not probable. "Lt. Bonfili helped me out with mock interviews, by forwarding me research articles, and proofing my papers," McLean said. "He and Professor Ellie Malone spent hours and hours of their time, helping me to prepare and telling me what to expect." Looking to the future, McLean is considering graduate school at Harvard, Oxford or Cambridge. "Winning the Truman has been an unbelievable experience, because so many great people have helped me along the way," McLean said. "I hope to take this opportunity and do something meaningful with it. I want to make a difference, to get out there and do something." He'll start his career as a naval aviator, but then he'd like to work in the Pentagon or at a foreign embassy with maybe the State Department or Department of Defense. "I've determined that public service is for me," he said. "I don't care about being a CEO, but I do care about people and about how national and international policies effect them." (Editor's note: Truman Scholars must have outstanding leadership potential and communications skills, be in the top quarter of their class, and be committed to careers in government or the not-for-profit sector.) (Ensign Sean Robertson contributed to this story.)

From Annapolis Trident, MD, by Martha Thorn, 2 May 2003

How the K.G. Public Service Authority Was Established

The King George Board of Supervisors established the Public Service Authority by resolution on a vote of 3-1-1 in March 1992. Those voting to establish the PSA were current Board of Supervisors Chairman Cedell Brooks Jr. and former Supervisors Michael Geraghty and Jerry Goodman. Former Supervisor Keith McGinniss voted against the resolution, with former Supervisor Bob Combs abstaining. The resolution stated that the board recognized the operational and financial concerns of the Dahlgren and Fairview Beach Sanitary Districts. The resolution establishing the PSA stated that the board "examined the alternatives available to each Sanitary District in its analysis of both the short term and long term financial condition...." The resolution establishing the PSA specifically limited the ability of the PSA to receive funding from the county.

The resolution stated, "Now therefore be it resolved by the Board of Supervisors of King George County, Virginia, that the Board does hereby agree and give such public assurance that the Board will not provide monetary contribution or donation to the King George County Public Service Authority and that there shall be a separate financial accounting of each sewer and water service area fees and assets."In April 1998, the Board of Supervisors adopted an additional resolution which provided the authority for the PSA to discontinue the separate financial accounting for the former sanitary districts and recognized that funding provided to the PSA may be beneficial under some circumstances. The resolution states, "The King George County Board of Supervisors does here by declare it may provide funds and/or assets to the Service Authority solely for specific, non-residential economic development purposes when it is advantageous to both the County and the Service Authority to do so."· Phyllis Cook is a staff reporter at The Journal. She can be reached at (540) 775-2024 or pcook@journalpress.com.

From King George Journal Press, VA, by Phyllis Cook, 1 May 2003

Congress Begins DoD Civil Service Overhaul Debate

Pay Raises and Rights of All Federal Employees At Risk As Congress Begins Debate on DoD Civil Service Overhaul - DoD Secretary Rumsfeld is pressuring Congress to quickly implement the Pentagon's 205 page legislation that would place DoD civilian employees under a completely new personnel system. The sweeping personnel changes in the bill would eliminate annual pay raises, step increases, appeal rights, bargaining rights and reduction in force protections for all DoD employees. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. The impact of the personnel changes proposed by DoD are huge and are likely to affect all AFGE members. As former Merit Systems Protection Board official John Palguta put it in yesterday's Washington Post, "This one is huge. I think where (the Pentagon) goes on this will have a major impact on what might happen for other agencies." The DoD bill is on a fast track for passage. The House Government Reform Subcommittee on Civil Service and Agency Organization has scheduled a hearing next Tuesday, April 29, at 10:00 in Room 2203 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The full House Government Reform Committee will consider, mark-up, a final version of the bill on Wednesday, April 30. What Can AFGE Grassroots Activists Do? The focus of attention right now must be the House Government Reform Committee and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. All AFGE Locals and activists should begin sending hundreds of Action Faxes in to the offices of Representative and Senator(s) who are on either of these committees.

From Scoop.co.nz, New Zealand, 4 May 2003

House Panel Launches Civil Service Overhaul

Pentagon Plan Could Spread to Other Agencies - A House panel this week put the federal government on a path toward overhauling a civil service system whose underpinnings date to the 19th century. The move could substantially change the way about 2 million civilian employees are paid, hired and promoted. In a 21 to 15 vote along party lines, the House Government Reform Committee on Wednesday granted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld broad authority to reshape his department's 749,000 civilian employees into what defense officials call a more "agile" workforce - one capable of meeting emerging national security challenges such as global terrorism. The legislation, opposed by employee labor unions, also would grant more limited relief from civil service rules to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Its backers say the measure would help those agencies recruit and retain talented employees. "It is time to bring these three agencies - and ultimately the rest of the federal government - into the 21st century," said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), the committee chairman. Davis and many other Republicans say the civil service system, which dates to 1883 and has been revised many times, imposes so many restrictions on managers that agencies take months to hire or reassign workers, cannot rid their ranks of problem employees and cannot tie pay to employee performance. The existing system produces a lumbering, inefficient government that protects mediocre workers without rewarding good ones, creating morale problems and giving "bureaucracy" a bad name, critics say. "We want it to work efficiently," said Rep. Ron Lewis (R-Ky.), a member of the Government Reform Committee. "But we also want it to work fairly."

Many Democrats agree the system needs to be improved. But it is unwise, they say, to pursue the kind of radical reconstruction that Republicans have favored at the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security, which Congress granted personnel flexibility last year. Without careful consideration, such changes are more likely to erode long-standing protections against patronage and discrimination, demoralize the federal workforce and make government less efficient, they argue. Before the civil service system was created in 1883, "a lot of incompetent people had [federal] jobs and corruption was rampant," said Rep. Major R. Owens (D-N.Y.). "It became a racketeering enterprise with no real control by the citizens." Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), the committee's ranking Democrat, said the bill would "strip away" worker rights at Defense and that Congress would "be opening the door for the rest of the federal workforce to have their rights taken away as well." The bill, proposed by the Pentagon on April 10, would permit officials to toss out the General Schedule and replace it with a pay-for-performance system that would end guaranteed annual raises based largely on longevity. Officials also would be able to hire workers more quickly, rehire some retirees and restrict the ability of unions to bargain over workplace conditions. Lawmakers required the Pentagon to include protections against nepotism, discrimination, conflicts of interest and political activity by employees in its new system. And they removed language that would have given Rumsfeld "sole and unreviewable" discretion to implement changes.

They also required that an independent review board appointed by the president oversee an appeals process for employees. Moreover, they said any compensation system should be based on merit principles and include training for managers as well as input from employees on its design and implementation. Beth Moten, chief lobbyist for the American Federation of Government Employees, said the bill will leave workers and their families vulnerable to the whims of their managers. "I don't think the federal managers are trained to make these sorts of decisions," she said. "And I think that lack of training and occasional incompetence on the part of federal managers will lead to some very bad decisions that will harm employees." A Pentagon spokeswoman declined to comment. The plan still must be approved by the House Armed Services Committee, the full House and the Senate, where key lawmakers have indicated that they will give Rumsfeld at least some of what he wants. Taken together, the personnel overhauls at the Pentagon and at the Homeland Security Department, which has roughly 200,000 employees, would dramatically alter the work rules for nearly half the federal government's civilian employees. That could portend substantial long-term changes for the entire federal workforce, analysts say. "It will be a very short period of time before the other agencies and bureaus line up and say, 'What about me?' " said Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. Paul C. Light, a government scholar at New York University and the Brookings Institution, said the bill "marks the end of the civil service system as we have known it."

Light said Congress may want to manage the exodus from the system by creating a "template" of basic worker rights that other agencies would have to follow. "Once DOD tumbles, you could end up with two results," he said. "One is that everybody else tunnels out in their own direction or under some sort of a uniform template. The other is that you have a core of relatively weak agencies that don't have the muscle to get these kinds of freedoms that become sort of the place where employees go for the old system. And I'm not sure that that makes a lot of sense." Rep. Jo Ann S. Davis (R-Va.), chairwoman of a key House civil service subcommittee, said she would prefer to create a government-wide framework. "The end goal is to encourage agencies to develop fair, credible and transparent employee performance systems, and once that is done, to allow them to use those systems to improve performance and reward their hardest-working employees," said Davis, who supports the amended Pentagon plan. Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), who opposes the measure, said many Republicans simply want to wipe out federal employee unions, which typically support Democrats. "Many of us who are public employee advocates are fully prepared to sit down with the administration to discuss reforms which will enhance the system," Hoyer said. "However, to turn over almost carte blanche arbitrary authority to the secretary of defense is a return to a spoils system, a return to a patronage system that was very substantially discredited."

From Washington Post, DC, by Christopher Lee, 9 May 2003

Public Service Recognition Week Celebrated in D.C.

On the National Mall in Washington, D.C., more than 100 government agencies, non-profit organizations and private companies recently gave citizens a chance to learn about public service during Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW). Public Service includes not only military service members, but also federal, state and local government employees. The four-day celebration on the mall held last weekend officially kicked off PSRW, which runs throughout the country and around the world until May 11. Many festivals, clean-ups and charitable fund raising events take place worldwide during PSRW. PSRW gives the nation a chance to recognize and honor the amazing, hard-working individuals who dedicate their lives to public service. The theme of PSRW this year was "Celebrating Government Workers Nationwide." "The event was very worthwhile," stated Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate Fuels (AW/SW) Kevin Dunnings, Naval District Washington's liaison for PSRW. "It's important for the community to see what Department of Defense/civil service employees do. It's important to see how the military and the civil service work together," he added.

Speaking of the reach that an event like PSRW has on the nation, Dunnings stated it's important to convey what public service is all about. "PSRW lets the community touch and see what their tax dollars are going to," he emphasized. The opening ceremony got underway May 2 with performances by the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps and the U.S. Armed Services Color Guard. The United States Navy Ceremonial Guard performed for the crowd May 3. The first day of PSRW is traditionally dedicated to students, and this year was no exception. Student's Day is a chance for students to learn the many exciting aspects of public service and talk one-on-one with various agency representatives. This year, students had the chance to interact with Navy divers from Explosive Ordnance Group Two (EOD-GRU 2) from Little Creek, Va., test their skills on the Army's rock climbing wall, try to break the pull-up record at the Marine booth (and win a cool T-shirt) and learn about military weather operations around the globe at the Air Force weather booth.

From Sea Services Weekly, DC, by Elizabeth St. John, 9 May 2003

Thompson: Criticism a Part of Public Service

As long as you are in public office, be prepared to get criticised. This was the message which Democratic Labour Party (DLP) St. John incumbent David Thompson sent to the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) last Saturday night at Glebe, St. George. Saying that for the first time in the island's history, the leader of one political party issued a writ against his counterpart during the last election, Thompson said, "Government is warning me and the members of the DLP ... you can't call anybody by a nickname ... you can't criticise people in Barbados anymore. "In public life you are going to be criticised, in public life people are going to say stupid and ignorant things about you ... but you accept them and move on." Turning his attention to the GEMS issue, he noted that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was unable to carry out an investigation, saying: "The PAC had no authority to inquire into GEMS and yet the PM gave me nine months to inquire into GEMS and then called elections in eight months," Thompson said. Meanwhile, the St. John candidate said that if crowds at DLP meetings are any indication, there will be a tough fight at the polls on election day. Noting that recently the DLP had attracted such large numbers to meetings, he expressed confidence that this is a sign that the "people of Barbados are opening their eyes to what is happening in our country", consequently they will be "dusting the BLP out of office".

From Barbados Advocate, West Indies, 13 May 2003

Times Earns Public Service Award for Coverage of Flawed Administrator Search

The longer Adams County's board of commissioners pursued not only hiring a county administrator, but filling the position with one of their own, the more determined the county's daily newspaper became in not only reporting, but derailing the flawed process. On Jan. 8, it was announced that the search would end. Two months later, the Gettysburg Times received statewide honors for its efforts. The Times was presented the award for showing the "Best Example of Public Service by a Newspaper" at the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors annual conference in Harrisburg last Friday night. Judges cited the newspaper's entry as, "Good reporting and a nice job of the staff holding government accountable for trying to cut corners. Nice job involving the community in the story." Times Editor B.J. Small, and Staff Writer John Messeder, who covers county government, accepted the award on behalf of the newspaper. Late last year, the board of commissioners, Tom Weaver, Harry Stokes and Tom Collins adopted a new budget that included a county administrator position. Commissioners Collins and Stokes wrote a letter encouraging Weaver to apply for the position, which he did. The process continued quietly, with Collins and Stokes poised to hire their colleague.

All three remained unwilling to remove themselves from the issue or selection process. Messeder continued to cover the story into the new year and the newspaper printed two of its own editorials and countless letters to the editor, hoping the county officials would acknowledge a conflict of interest and stop the process. On Jan. 8, Commissioner Collins was first to announce that the process would end. Weaver and Collins are seeking re-election. "The longer the search continued, the more incredible the story became; the conflict of interest became more colossal," said Editor Small. "It was amazing that they tried for so long, and so wrongly, to do this." The community's voice was so important toward the issue's outcome that the newspaper included as part of the contest entry, some of the letters to the editor it had printed. "Readers spoke and the commissioners heard," Small added. "It was proper for the newspaper to do its part to stop such a flawed process." The Times also earned a second-place in the "Best Sports/Outdoor Column" category for Small's "Fur, Feathers & Fins" writing in November about Peggy Shaffer, a female gamekeeper at a local pheasant farm. Earlier this year, the newspaper also earned a second-place Keystone Press Award for headline writing from Pennsylvania Newspaper Association.

From Gettysburg Times, PA, 14 May 2003

NASA Head Urges Graduates to Go into Public Service

NASA chief Sean O'Keefe says graduates should consider a career in public service - whether in space, the military, a public defender's office or an inner-city schoolroom. He spoke today (Saturday, 17 May) at Loyola University's graduation in New Orleans. As an example, he cited astronaut Kalpana Chawla of India - one of those who died when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated in February. He called her a risk taker who knew early that she wanted - in his words - "to go to the stars to serve the public good through government service and scientific advancement." O'Keefe urged the graduates to consider many forms of public service.

From Sarasota Herald-Tribune, FL, 17 May 2003

Nancy Reagan Presented Navy's Distinguished Public Service Award

Los Angeles - Former first lady Nancy Reagan was presented with the Navy's highest civilian honor Saturday during an Armed Forces Day ceremony attended by sailors who will crew a new aircraft carrier named for her husband. Acting Navy Secretary Hansford T. Johnson presented Mrs. Reagan with the Distinguished Public Service Award. A citation recognized her "poise and bearing" in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "I spent the majority of my naval career during the Reagan administration," Master Chief Robert Conklin said. "It made me proud to be a sailor again." Fifteen sailors and three Marines witnessed the presentation in a garden at the Bel-Air Hotel, less than a mile from the Reagan home. "Oh my. Thank you very much," Mrs. Reagan said. "I look forward to seeing you in July." The 1,092-foot USS Ronald Reagan completed builder's sea trials earlier this month and will be commissioned July 12 in Norfolk, Va., during ceremonies expected to be attended by Vice President Dick Cheney and Mrs. Reagan, who christened the ship in March 2001. Her husband, the nation's 40th chief executive, rarely ventures from home since disclosing in 1994 that he has Alzheimer's disease. However, "he's doing fine," Mrs. Reagan said. The nuclear-powered ship will be based in San Diego. It will be home to 6,000 sailors and carry more than 80 aircraft. It can operate for 20 years without refueling.

From San Jose Mercury News, CA, 17 May 2003

City Opposes Bill to Boost Civil Service Scores for Sept. 11 Siblings

New York - The city reportedly opposes legislation that would give the siblings of police officers and firefighters who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center an advantage when applying for civil service jobs. The proposed state law would give the brothers and sisters of those who died in the attack an additional 10 out of 100 points on the exams. A similar law, passed last year, gives 10 extra points to the children of the uniformed personnel who died on Sept. 11. But the city has not supported extending the policy to cover siblings, arguing that the new bill would make it more difficult to diversify the ranks of the uniformed services and preserve the merit system. "The legislation would hamper the city's ability to have diverse and well-qualified uniformed services whose members are selected on the basis of merit and fitness," Edward Skyler, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, told The New York Times for its Wednesday editions. And though the city's largest police union supports the bill, the two fire unions have not taken a stance on the issue, the Times said. "We understand the need for this bill because there are enormous emotional scars in the Fire Department family," Peter Gorman, the president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, told the Times. "But at the same time, our job is to protect the merit system at all costs." The law has already passed in the Assembly and is under consideration in the Senate.

From Newsday, 21 May 2003

Public Comments at Council Hearings Focus on Corruption

San Diego - The San Diego City Council heard today from several people about the public corruption probe that resulted in the raid of three councilmen's offices last week. Pepper Coffey, an Otay Mesa community activist and real estate agent who served on the Chargers task force, drew applause in the City Council chamber for her remarks in support of the three council members. The offices of Councilmen Michael Zucchet, Charles Lewis and Inzunza were searched last Wednesday, as FBI raids also were carried out at strip clubs in San Diego and Las Vegas owned by Michael Galardi. "The urge of the United States to pursue Mr. Galardi does not warrant disrupting the government of the whole city," Coffey said. "I strongly believe that Mayor Dick Murphy and each of the members of the City Council are honorable, honest, hard-working moral people of integrity involved in very challenging work." The federal probe reportedly centers on whether public officials were bribed with tens of thousands of dollars to help water down city laws governing strip clubs. A few other speakers during the public comment portion of today's City Council meeting touched on the scandal. Jarvis Ross of Point Loma focused his remarks on Chargers negotiations, which the council voted last night to extend.

He compared strip club operators to sports team owners. "Both provide entertainment, both solicit favorable economic treatment," Ross said. "The major difference is, in one case the entertainers strip before the public, and in the other, the owners strip the public." The most critical speaker was a man who frequently makes inflammatory comments about the City Council. Meanwhile, Fox6 news reported that Anthony Wagner, a policy adviser to Zucchet, was a target of the investigation. Wagner was not seen at today's council meeting. Zucchet's press secretary said she had no comment on the report. There were also various news reports that Las Vegas lobbyist Lance Malone, who is at the center of the public corruption probe, is cooperating as a federal witness. Malone, a former Clark County, Nev., commissioner, started working as a lobbyist on behalf of Galardi and his father shortly after losing his bid for re-election in 2000. Zucchet told the Union-Tribune last week that he had spoken with Malone about city strip club laws, but did not specify when or why. He said Inzunza and Lewis had also spoken with Malone. Malone met with Lewis when he was chief of staff to then-Councilman George Stevens and the city was revising its adult entertainment business laws, according to the newspaper. A grand jury reportedly was meeting today in Las Vegas. Last week, Councilman Jim Madaffer testified before a grand jury in San Diego as a witness.

From San Diego Union Tribune, CA, 20 May 2003

Civil Service Reform In a Crossfire

Washington - On Wednesday, Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) of the House Armed Services Committee wrote on The Washington Post's op-ed page that legislation pushed by the Pentagon would give the Defense Department "unfettered freedom to hire and fire" its 746,000 civil service employees. The bill, Skelton said, would even repeal laws preventing nepotism. Why, he asked, rush forward with such dramatic changes? The next day, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld fired back on The Post op-ed page. The bill would help the Defense Department "gain more flexibility and agility" in managing its civil service employees, he said. He pointed out that the Pentagon has more than 300,000 troops doing jobs that should be done by civilians. "Why is that? It's because when managers in the department want to get a job done, they go to the military," Rumsfeld contended. "They know they can manage military people, put them in a job, give them guidance, transfer them from one task to another and change the way they do things. They can't do that with the civil service, because it is managed outside the Defense Department by others, with a system of rules and requirements fashioned for a different era." For the record, Rumsfeld added, "the provisions we have proposed explicitly bar nepotism." Those weren't the only voices heard in last week's debate.

House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) warned that the Defense bill would provide the defense secretary with "broad authority to undo more than a century of congressionally passed federal worker protections." Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) said the bill would strip away employee rights "guaranteed to them since the days of Teddy Roosevelt," perhaps the nation's most famous civil service commissioner. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), the Armed Services Committee chairman, said Rumsfeld had earned the right "to revamp his shop" after the war against Iraq. The bill would provide Defense employees with an independent board to appeal unjust actions by their bosses, Hunter said. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), who chairs the Government Reform Committee, said the civil service system "is built on 19th-century principles. It is this system that makes a culture of achievement nearly impossible." So there you have it - starkly contrasting views of what the Defense proposal means. Unfortunately, the bill is difficult to parse, and it is no wonder that numerous federal employees look at it and get nervous. As one employee said in an e-mail, "If my new boss takes a dislike to me, he can set it up to make my performance look bad and therefore rate me very low." Poor ratings could mean small or no pay raises and, perhaps, lead to disciplinary action.

Some House members who shaped the Defense bill have tried to be sensitive to such concerns, but their assurances have not swayed Bobby L. Harnage Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees. Harnage argues that the bill would bring back patronage - hiring and promotions based on who you know rather than what you know. Late Thursday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, announced that she and Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) would introduce legislation to modify the original Pentagon proposal and hold a hearing in early June. The Senate bill, Collins said, would grant the three primary changes sought by the Pentagon and included in the House version: the authority to replace the 15-grade General Schedule with a pay-for-performance system; the ability to conduct on-the-spot hiring for critical positions; and the authority to raise collective bargaining to the national level, rather than negotiate with more than 1,000 union locals. But Collins also signaled that she was not ready to let Defense abandon the current appeals process, which lets employees take complaints of unfair treatment to the Merit Systems Protection Board. The Senate bill, she said, would require the Pentagon to first work with MSPB in developing and testing any streamlined appeals process. "We have attempted to strike the right balance between promoting a flexible system and protecting employee rights," Collins said. (Stephen Barr's e-mail address is barrs@washpost.com).

From Washington Post, DC, by Stephen Barr, 24 May 2003

Public Service Alliance of Canada - Young Workers Demand Respect

Montreal - More than 300 members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) employed at the Old Port of Montreal will be launching a 48-hour strike on Sunday, May 25, to protest against management's comtemptuous attitude towards young workers. "This dispute has to do with the manner in which young people enterin gthe workforce are being treated in our society" pointed out local president Mhaji Mouhssine. "Young workers must have access to wages and working conditions which reflect the respect given to youth in our society," he added. Mouhssine indicated that it is not out of the question for these workers to hold a general strike for an indefinite period of time if management does not soon table a reasonable offer. "We have been negotiating for over a year, and management has yet to show us an offer which could lead to a settlement of this labour dispute." According to the local president, the Corporation of the Old Port of Montreal is showing its contempt for young people by continuing to promote job insecurity in hiring practices and unacceptable working conditions. "Is this the legacy we want to leave our youth?" inquired Mouhssine. "Are we supposed to agree to have young workers treated more poorly than were their elders?" The vast majority of Old Port of Montreal employees are under 30 years of age. They work in the Imax Cinema and on the canal locks and provide guided tours. Their average salary is just above minimum wage.

From Canada NewsWire, Canada, 22 May 2003

Larson Urges CCSU Grads to Take Up Public Service

Hartford, Conn. - An alumnus of Central Connecticut State University returned Saturday to urge the newest graduates to enter public service. Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., (Class of '72), was presented with the president's medal, the university's highest honor, at commencement exercises, The Herald of New Britain reported Sunday. "Placing an envelope in the basket on Sunday or simply paying our taxes does not relieve us of our responsibility to our community," he said at ceremonies honoring the 1,633 graduates at the Hartford Civic Center. "All of us must find a way to help others, whether it's to feed, clothe, or comfort. All of us must give of ourselves. All of us must contribute." But the weak economy and less-than-inviting job market greeting college graduates will force students to defer acts of charity, said Shakil Choudry, president of the Class of '03. "I wish you all a bright future," he said. Sam Dawes, 28, was among the graduates.

As a serviceman, he earned tuition assistance and also worked part-time. "It's been a long and hard road to get here, but I'm glad I went through all the effort," Dawes said. University President Richard Judd, who presided over ceremonies that drew about 10,000 graduates, family members and friends, saluted the students. "It is your day today. Today we recognize your hard work, dedication, and spirit," he said. "Never forget where you come from, no matter where you go." Actress Sigourney Weaver on Friday received an honorary doctorate from Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. She advised the 1,260 graduates to be spontaneous, The Hartford Courant reported. "Every time I've ever made a plan, it's always been a disaster," Weaver said. John Soto, president and chief executive officer of the New Haven-based Space-Craft Manufacturing Inc., also was presented with an honorary doctorate.

From Newsday, 24 May 2003

Public Administration Group Gives Three Awards

Three people, including Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Tim Moore, were presented with Awards of Excellence recently by the North Florida chapter of the American Society of Public Administration. Moore received the chapter's Leadership Award. The chapter singled out FDLE's performance-based compensation plan as well as the national recognition he has brought to the agency. Howard M. Rasumssen, director of the Certified Public Manager program at Florida State University, received the chapter's Management Achievement award. Rasumssen works to deliver management training to local governments across the state. Angela Whitaker, aide to Tallahassee City Commissioner Andrew Gillum, received the chapter's Exemplary Service Achievement Award. Whitaker, a city employee for more than 20 years, was recognized for her contributions in the offices of the city manager and the City Commission.

From The Tallahassee Democrat, 25 May 2003

 

Effective, Efficient Public Service Delivery a Challenge for Africa

Pretoria - Effective and efficient public service delivery remains a major challenge for many African countries, says Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi. The minister was addressing the fourth Pan African Conference of Public Service Ministers at the Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch today. The main objectives of this year's conference include sharing information and knowledge on governance and public administration, and defining a short and long-term capacity development agenda for public sector reform on the continent. In response to these challenges, Ms. Fraser-Moleketi said 'we have seen our leadership increase the momentum to revitalize the discourse on the institutional reform and begin to more vigorously shape and drive Africa's capacity development and reform agenda'. She said this momentum was reflected in the energy that surrounded Africa's recovery plan, NEPAD, and in the establishment of the African Union (AU). 'We have realized that the momentum around NEPAD provides us with a platform for exchanging information, for collaboration and for taking joint responsibility for Africa's institutional development.' The theme for this year's conference is 'Public sector institutional capability for Africa's renewal'. The conference runs until May 7.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Candace Freeman, 5 May 2003

Civil Servants Get Reprieve On Transportation

Abuja - The problem facing civil servants in the area of transportation may soon end with the introduction of public transport system by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation. Though the details of the development are still sketchy, Abuja Trust gathered that buses have been made available to provide transport services at a very low fare to civil servants and other commuters. Passengers who are required to pay half and sometimes less than half of what other commercial buses are charging for various destinations are issued tickets for purposes of accountability. Abuja Trust took a ride on one of such buses and reports that most workers were excited at the development. "The vehicle is neat and sound and the fare low and acceptable. The driver from what I have experienced is good and careful and of course very respectful and courteous," one of the passengers said. He recommended that government should expand such programmes as a better way of alleviating poverty. Another passenger said though it was the first time he was to benefit from the development, it was necessary to sustain it and even advertise it so that more people would benefit. "These commercial drivers are wicked and exploitive. They are capitalising on various conditions like fuel scarcity, increasing number of commuters and so on to exploit the poor masses," the lady said. Others expressed concern that government has not been able to run an effective mass oriented transport system in the Federal Capital Territory, adding that the Nigeria Labour Congress transportation system is not yet effective and the coverage not extensive.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Ikenna Emeka Okpani, 7 May 2003

 

Commerce Ministry Tops in E-governance, IT Benefits

Commerce Ministry emerged more IT-savvy ahead of Cabinet Secretariat, Ministries of External Affairs and Telecom to be ranked at the top in terms of eGovernance and IT benefits, a study commissioned by IT ministry said. "Department of Commerce is the Benchmark for all the central Ministries and Departments for assessing IT benefits. It has documentary evidences to prove that it has clearly observed impact of IT on productivity, it has observed benefits of implementing IT in their processes and have assessed ROI for implementing IT in the process," the study conducted by Indian market Research Bureau (IMRB) said. However, the Ministry headed by Arun Jaitley ranked fifth in overall "e-Readiness scores," said the report submitted recently to the Government. The topper of the over all list was Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievance. The study was commissioned by Ministry of Communication and Information and Technology to assess eReadiness of Central Ministries/Departments on five indices - E-governance, IT Action Plan/Policies, IT People, IT Infrastructure, process and IT Benefits. On the IT benefits, the Department of Commerce secured 93 out of 93 marks in the study while the other two close contenders were Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances and Department of Posts both securing 84 marks.

Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports brought up the rear with five marks. The top ten Ministries and Departments in eGovernance assessment were:1. Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances2. Cabinet Secretariat3. Ministry of Steel4. Department of Biotechnology5. Department of Commerce6. National Commission for SC/ST7.Ministry of Non Conventional Energy Sources8. Department of Information Technology9. Ministry of Defence - supply and production division and,10. Ministry of Small Scale Industries Referring to the inclusion of both the Department of Commerce and Ministry of Small Scale Industries in the top ten eGovernance list, the IMRB report said that it was good news for the business sector. "The business sector should also take heart from the fact that the Department of Commerce and the Ministry of Small Scale Industries have already pulled up their socks and are more than ready to offer E-governance to their stakeholders," it said.H owever, the study lamented that "the citizen-centric ministries have not been able to make to the top-10 list."

From Hindustan Times, India, 5 May 2003

Munda Logs into E-governance

Ranchi - On Monday, Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda spoke to the Deputy Commissioner (DC) and SP of Bokaro, the neighbouring town of the state capital. Nothing out of ordinary here except the fact that the Munda was video-conferencing. In an attempt to adopt e-governance in the state, the CM's residence got the video-conferencing facility way back in 2001 during Marandi's tenure wherein all four divisional headquarters - Ranchi (South Chotanagpur), Hazaribagh (North Chotanagpur), Daltongunj (Palamau) and Dumka (Santhal Pargana) - were connected. The offices of the Governor, Chief Secretary, DGP and other department secretaries were also linked at the cost of Rs 6 crore. In addition, laptops worth Rs 76 lakh were gifted to the 82 MLAs. Not that it helped much for the officials didn't trust the machines much. The MLAs weren't any better. Out of the 82, only ten had e-mail accounts. Of them only two regularly checked their mail. "The remaining four dozen-odd MLAs didn't even know how to start the laptops. So bad was the scene that Congress Legislature party leader Furkan Ansari's MBBS son Dr Irfan Abbu used his father's laptop. RJD MLA Sabba Ahmad's daughter Narbeen and son Nadeem were making use of their father's laptop.

So was the case with BJP's Mrigendra Pratap Singh whose laptop was lying with his relative," claimed a report in a local Hindi daily. Even Marandi never used his official laptop. He never held a video-conference with the officials. Unlike Marandi, Munda looks determined to herald a change in the process of governance. Now no officer is supposed to be found loitering around the CM Secretariat without the permission of his/ her department's head. A computerised attendance register is being introduced at the secretariat. Munda also issued a seven-point directive to officials recently, asking them to prepare a monthly schedule to take stock of annual targets and setting a time-frame for implementation of projects approved during the last fiscal. Earlier this month, the government organised seminar on ISO 9000. At this seminar, representatives of four companies -Quality Growth Services Pvt Ltd, Det Norske Veritas, Quality Management International and ICL Certification Ltd presented their expertise to improve the government performance and Munda, along with a dozen ministers and top officers including CS A.K. Mishra and DGP R.R. Prasad, sat through the seminar. Asked if the state government is ready to apply for ISO 9000 certification, Munda replied in the affirmative.

From Newindpress, India, 8 May 2003

e-Governance Helps Local Languages Stride in IT Industry

New Delhi - The buzz around e-governance may or may not become a boon for general public in the near future but its growing importance has come as a welcome break for the Indian languages which till now had a miniscule presence in the Information Technology market in the country. "The local language software market in India, which was merely $0.5 million three years ago, is expected to grow manifold and will approximately be to the tune of $64 million by 2005," says Aditya Sapru, Director Frost and Sullivan, which conducted a recent survey of this market. There are many factors facilitating this growth but the driving force behind adoption of local language IT products and solutions will necessarily be the e-governance initiatives being undertaken by the central and the state governments, he notes. Pointing out that only five per cent of the total Indian population could read or write in English language, Sapru says "if any e-governance initiative in this country has to succeed then majority of the communication has to take place in a language common people understand." Language used for communication is going to play a very important role in e-governance, admits Vinnie Mehta, Executive Director, MAIT, the apex body representing the hardware, training and R&D services sector of the IT industry in the country. The report on Study on Market Potential for Local Language Applications in India states that the market is currently estimated at about $11 million and is likely to grow at a rate of over 79 per cent over the next three years.

It notes that there is an overall consensus on the benefits of e-governance in India and greater number of states are expected to provide more and more services to its citizens over the electronic medium in the near future. Deploying Local Language IT as a part of State and Central e-governance implementations will serve the cause of improving the reach and quality of services offered across a wide section, it says, adding "the usage of local language software is expected to attain greater importance in the overall success of e-governance initiatives then." Pointing out that 40 per cent of the total revenue generated by the present Local Language IT market comes from e-governance as against only 10 per cent in 1998, Sapru says by 2005 this percentage will go up to 55 and even higher in th coming years depending on the e-governance initiatives taken b the various governments. According to the report Andhra Pradesh contributes to 23.6 per cent of total local language software market revenue followed by Gujarat at 12.9, while Punjab accounts to only 0.2 per cent. The study reveals that lack of universal standards for scripts and fonts, lack of awareness regarding e-governance computing applications at the grassroot level and absence of universal hardware and coding standards has resulted in the current limited growth of this industry.

Admiting that there was a need for standarisation in the local language IT industry, Mehta says the major hurdle is that the sector is very fragmented. "But now the industry under the ageis of Department of Information and Technology, Government of India has formed a Consortium on Innovation and Language Technology (COIL-tech) to handhold language technology companies, help them in promotion at national and international level and facilitate technology transfers," he notes. Mehta says the consortium, which was formed last year to drive benefits of IT to vernacular languages will provide a platform for development of computing standards and also encourage collaborative Research and Development in multilingual computing. Pointing out that COIL-tech has already developed font standards for seven Indian languages, including Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and Malayalam, he says the deficiencies in the Unicode with regard to supporting Indian languages have also been taken up with the International Unicode consortium and would be resolved soon. Sapru stresses that the sector was still in its nascent stage and the industry and the government was in the process o establishing the infrastructure required for its growth and adds that once it takes place then there would be no "looking back" for the Local Language IT industry.

From Economic Times, India, by Abhijeet Kulkarni, 14 May 2003

ET Seminar on E-governance from May 27

Economictimes.com, the online edition of India's no 1 financial daily, is organising an exclusive gathering of the country's top bureaucrats, politicians and captains of India Inc. Themed around 'E-governance in the digital age and e-business strategies for the public sector', the three-city seminar - to be held in Delhi, May 27; Bangalore, May 29 and Hyderabad, May 30 - will have some of the most celebrated names in e-governance internationally and in India. Among them will be Douglas Holmes, a global authority on e-governance, and the IT secretaries of the states of Kerala, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi and Karnataka. Author of the best-seller e-Gov: e-Business Strategies for Government, Douglas Holmes will be the key speaker at the event, holding three sessions. Mr. Holmes is Editor of 'Microsoft in Government' e-newsletter. Previously, Mr. Holmes was a columnist for the IDG publication, CIO Government's Review. He's also contributed to the US Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee's 2001 Briefing Book on e-government.

Presently, Mr. Holmes is also a consultant to several public officials and technology companies worldwide on e-governance. Several states are using IT to revamp everything from payment of taxes, issuing of licences, power distribution and even examination procedures. With almost a dozen states jumping on to the e-governance bandwagon, it seems to be the next big trend in India. But most of these are still only individual state government initiatives. E-governance, - despite its huge advantages - is yet to assume countrywide adoption and national significance. Among others, the who's who of the India Inc will analyse and examine topics like: The challenges faced by the state and central governments on the path to ubiquitous e-governance; How can public sector companies rejig their business strategies to fight the rising competition; What are the opportunities e-governance offers to Business India? The speakers will also dwell on global best practices in e-governance; application of successful e-business tools and techniques to public sector realities and review trends of governing in the digital age. Innovative Media CEEG is the knowledge partner for the event. For more details on the seminar log on to http://egov.economictimes.com

From Economic Times, India, 14 May 2003

E-government Need Not Be Monopoly of Government

E-government is all about interacting with the government in a way that people want, any time and anywhere. Right? Well, yes, but there's also an oxymoron of sorts here, as people really don't want to interact with the government any time and anywhere. Rather, they don't want to interact with government at all, if they can help it. The solution is simple: Let the private sector provide online public services. In the off-line world, it has long been a standard practice to grant concessions to companies to perform all sorts of public works. There is no good reason why government should be a monopoly supplier of its online services. Commercial websites can reach as many citizens in a day as government websites can in a month. Moreover, a private company provides added value to government services by packaging them with their own products and services, making them more market-focused and attractive to individual consumers. There is also a lot of technical integration required to facilitate e-governance services. A commercial website providing a service at the front end must link with a service provider in the middle that acts as a distribution channel for a public service.

This service provider must in turn link at the back end to the systems of the responsible government agencies. Further, to minimise technical incompatibilities, each player must rely on open technical standards and systems for data integration and presentation. The various public and private players within an online government service network shouldn't strike exclusive deals. There should be strict terms and conditions guaranteeing quality of service. CRM becomes important once an online service network is in place where government, service provider and commercial sites are all working together to deliver high-quality value-added public services. The relationship with the customer must be managed end-to-end. Once these kind of information flows have been achieved, e-government would no longer remain an oxymoron. Public services will be truly provided in the way that people want to receive them. The people are in charge. They can conduct online government transactions without having to deal with the government. Now that's what I call quite citizen-centric.

From Economic Times, India, 21 May 2003

Introduce E-Governance at Grass Root Level: Kamat

"If our nation has to progress and compete with the world, E-Governance has to be introduced at the grass root level", was the message of Digambar Kamat, while speaking at the inaugural function of "Proquest 2003" at Padre Conceicao College of Engineering, Verna. Kamat went on to advice students not to equate knowledge with monetary benefits in mind, since this would result in loss of their morality, which he stated, was of utmost importance to our society at present.Earlier, Dr R P Adgaonkar, principal of the college welcomed the dignitaries which comprised of Fr P M Rodrigues, director, Agnel Technical Education Complex, Dr Anil Seth (HOD-Computer Engineering and IT), J M Noronha (HOD-Production Engineering), besides other staff and students. Speaking further, Dr Adgaonkar listed the various activities of the College and stated that such functions helped in all round development of the students which would help them to become good Engineers.Later, Fr P M Rodrigues and Digambar Kamat lit the traditional lamp to mark the inauguration of "Proquest 2003" which comprises of a series of seminars on Computer Engineering and IT related topics as well as presentation of technical papers on these topics. Other speakers who spoke are Dr Guru Bhat, on the upcoming area of Web Services, while Fred Noronha and Bijon Shah spoke on the various aspects of Open Source software and Linux. Gaurav Jaiswal highlighted the different career options in Open Source software. Santosh Kamat emphasised the various benefits of forming a CSI chapter, while Ravi Deka spoke on BeOS.

From Oherald, India, 21 May 2003

MCD Ropes in ICICI Infotech for E-governance Initiatives

New Delhi, - The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) on Tuesday signed an agreement with ICICI Infotech to provide consulting and project management on e-governance. Under the two-year agreement, ICICI Infotech will also advise MCD on networking, computerisation of municipal hospitals, introduction of computer literacy programmes in schools and back office automation, Delhi Municipal Commisssioner, Rakesh Mehta said. ICICI Infotech is also expected to devise the implementation strategy of the IT master plan of MCD currently under formulation by TCS. The master plan is expected to be ready by August, Mehta said, adding for the year 2003-04, MCD has projected an IT budget of Rs 2 crore. ICICI Infotech will also undertake hospital information computerisation, computer literacy programmes in the identified 60 municipal schools, database management of 33 MCD departments along with inter-department integration, MCD Web site overhaul and fine-tuning financial aspects of online tendering process, Mehta said. "The project will serve as a role model for municipal governance in the country", ICICI Infotech ED, Manoj Kunkalienkar said.

From Hindustan Times, India, 20 May 2003

E-governance in India to Spur Language Computing Industry Growth

New Delhi - The hitherto sluggish language computing industry in India is poised to grow to 20 million dollars this year and touch 64 million dollars by 2005 following e-governance moves initiated by various state governments. According to a survey conducted by the Manufacturers Association of Information Technology (MAIT) and research analysts Frost and Sullivan, the market size for local language applications, which was 0.4 million dollars in 1998, was set for high growth in the next three years. The key drivers for this growth would be the introduction and promotion of new technology solutions and applications by Indian industry to cater to the growing needs of citizens, business, and the government sector. According to MAIT Executive Director Vinnie Mehta, the central and state governments need to encourage the use of local language applications in their departments. The government needs to ensure that all real life applications step out of the planning stage and get implemented at respective departments, providing relevant and real time information in local languages. Growth had been sluggish due to the lack of universal standards for scripts and fonts, input devices and transliteration tools.

Limited availability of vernacular software and fonts and low availability of local language content on the Internet had also contributed to the slow growth of the language computing industry. The nascent and highly fragmented market is currently driven by off-the-shelf applications for end-users such as the publishing industry and government sectors, the report said. Mehta said the industry must work towards "killer applications," which would be of economic benefit to the small and medium enterprises, besides the common man. The challenges that need to be tackled for improving computing in vernacular included the lack of formal IT-based language training among users and the lack of awareness regarding e-governance computing applications at the grassroots level. Another major impediment is the low penetration of personal computer (PCs) across India and insufficient or delayed implementation of initiatives taken by different government bodies. The study suggested the creation of a web-based repository of best practices for content, software and language-based applications and its free availability in the public domain.

From IRNA, Iran, 19 May 2003

Seminar On Improvement Of Public Service Delivery

Karachi - The Provincial Education and Literacy Department is holding a seminar on improving the public service delivery on May 24,2003 at Hotel Indus at Hyderabad. The Minister for Education Mr. Irfanullah Khan Marwat will preside over the seminar while eminent educationists and officers of the Education Department will give presentation on the occasion. The District Nazims of Karachi, Hyderabad, Badin, Thatta, Tharparkar, Mirpurkhas, Sanghar and Dadu will also attend the seminar besides officers of the Education Department and Chairman of SMCs.

From Pakistan News Service, Pakistan, 23 May 2003

ICICI Info Signs E-governance Pact with MCD

New Delhi: The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has signed a two-year agreement with ICICI Infotech to provide consulting and project management on e-governance initiatives. MCD provides civic services to an estimated population of 13.7m.Outlining MCD's e-governance strategies, mayor Ashok Kumar Jain said records of all departments with public interface will be digitised. A master plan for IT infrastructure in MCD was also being drafted. Applications on client-server model with a web-interface are being developed while the MCD staff are being trained in computer. Consultation on a host of issues like networking, computerisation of hospitals, computer literacy and back-office automation and assistance to various MCD departments is on the anvil. Leader of the Opposition, Subhash Arya said the collaboration would help improve the quality of services to the citizens already being offered from 12 citizen service bureaus (CSBs) set up in New Delhi. A new service enabling citizens to securely transact over the internet to book and pay for marriage halls, parks and crematorium-related services including birth and death certificates would be introduced. Municipal commissioner, Rakesh Mehta said, "ICICI Infotech surpassed all the criteria laid down by us and also demonstrated an in-depth understanding of our requirements." Manoj Kunkalienkar, executive director, ICICI Infotech said, "The MCD project provides us an opportunity to leverage our local and international expertise. Given the special place that Delhi holds both nationally and internationally, this project will serve as a role model for municipal governance in the country.

From Economic Times, India, 23 May 2003

'E-government' Stumbles at Its Outset

Jung Suk-ja, 29, was venting her anger on civil servants at the Gangnam district office Friday. She had tried for 20 minutes, to no avail, to get her citizen registration document issued from a kiosk in the office. The kiosk was a terminal for the so-called "electronic government system," established amid much fanfare last year to permit citizens to self-serve necessary procedures. At another kiosk in the Yeoksam-dong office in Gangnam, the registration issuance service has been shut off. "People rarely used the machine, saying it was too difficult, so we closed it," an official said. In fact, most of the electronic government services so ambitiously launched six months ago are in similar desuetude, the only exception being the business procurement service. "The era has opened where citizens and corporations can enjoy first-grade administrative services with a few mouse clicks," the government boasted in launching the service through government Web sites last November. The project, which cost 300 billion won ($251 million), is still in its early stage, but is riddled with shortcomings. Faced with the difficulty of use, the selfishness of competing government agencies and services tilted for the convenience of suppliers, hopeful users of the e-government services turn away. Complexity is the biggest complaint.

Most users find that it is faster to visit district offices in person or make application by telephone. "I was frustrated at the difficulty in finding guidelines on the Web site on how to get an official certification," said Kim Byeong-tak, 31, a corporate employee who tried to apply for a citizen registration document. The application requires the user to get an online official certificate confirming his identity. Four agencies were designated by the government to issue the certificates in the form of a computer file. But the procedure requires the user first to visit a bank in person. The procedures are not widely known, and most people are quickly baffled after logging on to the Web site. In November, about 155,000 people a day, on average, logged on to the e-government Web site. Barely a third as many did so last month. In the system's early stage, about 1,100 applications a day were made for civil services; last month there were just 950 applications a day ? only 0.095 percent of the 3 million sheets of civil documents issued offline every day. When the JoongAng Ilbo polled 3,700 Internet users, only 29 percent knew the address of the electronic government Web site.

Thirteen percent of the respondents said they had used the electronic government services in the last three months. Ten frequently needed documents can be issued at the 835 kiosks that have been placed in district offices and train stations, but citizens find them hard to use. At many district offices civil servants wait on people to teach them how to use the machines. Until April, each machine was used an average of 215 times month. A second common complaint is that the services most needed are unavailable due to turf protection by government agencies. Koreans report address changes about 9 million times a year. But these moves cannot be done online. The Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs opposes the initiative, saying that allowing online reports would lead to fake address transfers. Lack of necessary legislation has been another obstacle. Under current law, documents issued online do not have legal effect; thus, after making applications for civil documents through the Internet, people still have to visit district offices or get valid documents by mail. The key to an online system is a 24-hour operation.

But the electronic government is available only during office hours as a result of feud between the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs and the Ministry of Information and Communication over which agency should run the site. "There is no arbitrator powerful enough to coordinate selfishness among government agencies, which contributes to undermining the effectiveness of the electronic government service," said Hwang Bo-yeol, professor at the electronic government research center of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. "Electronic government is inevitable to improve government competitiveness," Suh Sam-young, president of the National Computerization Agency, said. "It is urgently needed to address confusion in the transitional period and to amend legislation and create organizations to provide civil services effectively."

From Joongang Ilbo, South Korea, arjuna@joongnag.co.kr, 26 May 2003

E-governance Needs Private Participation

New Delhi - Private sector participation in egovernance initiatives in the ''digital age'' is assuming greater significance, says best-selling author of ''e-Gov: e-Business Strategies for Government'' Douglas Holmes. Holmes, who ran through an exhaustive powerpoint presentation on egovernance, was speaking at the Economictimes.com ''India eGov Seminar 2003'' on Tuesday. The seminar was inaugurated by Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit. Other speakers included R Chandrashekhar, JS, department of IT, V Chandrashekhar, global head, s-Governance practice TCS, Neelratan, ED PricewaterhouseCoopers. Rajesh Sawhney, COO, Times Internet presented the introductory remarks. The change in the landscape of governance in recent years has been dramatic and citizens are increasingly expecting the same level of service from government as they do from the private sector. In India, despite the government's vision of a successful e-governance model in India, a closer look at the report card shows that development has been uneven. It has been, what industry analysts call, an early mover advantage. States like AP, Karnataka and MP have adopted and implemented policy quickly and efficiently making significant progress in e-governance. While it is accepted that there are islands of best practices all over the world and in India some islands of best practice are doing excellent work and making a big impact locally and getting international recognition, the challenge for India is to coordinate the activity of these islands and create an overall e-governance package.

From Times of India, India, 28 May 2003

 

EU Expands E-government

Even before full EU membership, six accession states are cooperating on e-government - The first six accession countries lined up to enter the EU next year have joined Brussels' e-government programme. Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia, Malta, and Cyprus signed memoranda of understanding with the European Commission for participation in the Interchange of Data between Administrations (IDA) programme. The agreements, signed on 25 April 2003 allow the six countries to link into pan European electronic systems, to join other EU member states in exchanging data and to supply e-government services across borders to citizens and businesses. In joining the programme the accession states will get access to software, technical guidelines and interoperability frameworks for implementing e-government solutions as part of the EU's 2005 Action Plan. They will also have to contribute to the IDA's annual budget. It is also hoped that by joining the IDA, the accession countries will also be encouraged to use electronic networks for implementing EU legislation. Following the first six countries, Hungary is next to join the programme with the remaining accession countries (Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia) to also to sign agreements later this year.

From Kablenet, UK, 29 April 2003

Stanca Thanks Ciampi for Mention of 'E-government'

"On Labour Day the comments made by President Ciampi regarding the progress made by the Government in the complex process of modernisation being undertaken in the realm of e-Government was very much appreciated." The Minister for Innovations and Technology, Lucio Stanca, thus wanted to express his gratitude to the Head of the State, who in his May 1st speech, did not forget to highlight the results obtained by our country in a European context and as regards this matter. "With this explicit reference, President Ciampi" added the Minister too, "has brought to everyone's attention, and above all to the attention of the labour world, the importance that e-Government has in rendering more efficient and modern the public 'machinery', but also to give citizens more efficient services, and to businesses innovative tools for more competitivity. This is a useful stimulus to intensify the activities of the government and for all interested subjects, to actively contribute in the transformation underway in Italian society as regards the digitalisation of public administration and technological innovation, elements capable of favouring new jobs and new development opportunities."

Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 2 May 2003

Global E-government

UK uses technology to strengthen border security: The UK Home Office has announced plans to beef up its border control policy through the use of new technologies. In an effort to prevent illegal immigrants and terrorists entering the UK, a pilot scheme is being launched that will run instant checks on the passports of travellers before they board certain flights bound for the UK. High-tech scanners in Madrid and Miami will "read" passports and other documents and check them against on-line law enforcement databases for passengers who pose known immigration or security risks, as well as detecting forged or stolen documents. As part of the three-month trial, checks will also be made on passengers travelling on selected flights leaving the UK. Meanwhile, the UK Passport Service has issued its corporate business plan for the next five years. The plan indicates that a six-month trial exploring the use of biometric technology is due to be launched. Europe to up spending on e-government: Western European countries will increase their e-government budgets over the next three years, according to research by IDC. A study of the UK, France, Germany and Italy showed that spending on e-government initiatives will increase until 2006, as administrations strive to meet the EU's deadline for the electronic delivery of a wide range of services.

The report predicts that the growth rate of government spending on IT in the four countries will peak in 2004, hitting double figures before settling into a steady growth pattern. The projects these governments will be focusing on include the improvement of interaction with citizens through portals and call centres, the development of e-procurement and the introduction of networks to support information-sharing across administrations. EC proposes electronic tagging for farm animals: The European Commission has recommended the introduction of electronic tagging for livestock across Europe. The Commission said the implementation of e-tagging was feasible according to the results of the IDEA (Electronic IDentification of Animals) project, a six-nation trial of 1 million farm animals conducted between March 1998 and December 2001. European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said that "Individual identification of livestock in the EU is essential to prevent agricultural subsidy frauds and reinforce health and safety controls." He also noted that electronic tracking was crucial during outbreaks of disease among animals, such as foot-and-mouth. The Commission pointed out that conventional systems of tagging - ear tags, tattooing and marking - can be altered and are not always reliable, and the manual recording of data is both slow and prone to error. Spain fails Web site accessibility test:

The majority of public sector Web sites in Spain fail to meet standards for accessibility to users with disabilities, according to a new study. Consultancy firm Emergia examined 21 central, regional and local government Web sites for their compliance with nine basic criteria for accessibility. Not one of the sites complied fully with all nine criteria, and the average level of compliance was just 34 percent. The sites of regional authorities fared better than the others, with 49 percent compliance, while central government scored a mere 22 percent, and the sites for large cities achieved 31.5 percent compliance. The most common problems encountered include a lack of alternative text for non-text elements on Web pages, meaningless content in text-only versions of sites, the absence of clear descriptive titles in frames, and a lack of site maps. New York launches health e-lert system: New York City has developed an electronic health alert system for the city's community of medical care workers. Established by the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), the Health Alert Network is a Web portal with over 500 registered users from the health care industry. The portal can send out health alert messages to local hospitals and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through pagers, mobile phones and e-mail.

The Web site also provides e-learning facilities for health care workers, along with a searchable library of clinical material, providing access for medical professionals to documents such as disease fact sheets and clinical guidelines. In addition, the portal connects the DOHMH with the CDC, facilitating collaboration on initiatives such as national disease surveillance and electronic laboratory reporting. Muscat hosts e-government symposium: The city of Muscat in Oman is hosting a three-day e-government symposium from 10 May. Over 400 people are expected to attend the conference, the title of which is "E-government opportunities and challenges." Delegates from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Lebanon and Malaysia will be in attendance. One of the main topics to be addressed at the conference is the use of Web portals and how they can be used to enhance access to services and information. Other issues to be explored include the obstacles hindering the implementation of e-government and the practical steps needed in order to overcome those obstacles. In addition, case studies will be presented that examine the efforts of other nations with regard to e-government. The event is presented by the Muscat municipality, in association with the Arab Urban Development Institute, the World Bank and the California Institute for Smart Communities.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 7 May 2003

New Centre to Improve Public Service Access

Access to council services in Merton will be much improved after a new £250,000 state of the art call centre opened last week. The call centre is phase two of the Merton Link project by Merton Council, aimed at centralising access to services. Phase one saw the introduction of a one-stop shop in the reception of the Civic Centre. Up to 30 operators will be answering calls at any one time and it is hoped the new centre will improve access to services for the public. Operators will be equipped with information to deal with a variety of issues including waste services and housing benefit. Directory - They will also have access to the computer directory of council services and local organisations. Joan Dickenson, manager of Merton Link, said: "It will improves access for residents. People can get all their questions answered in one call on a variety of areas. "For example, if somebody moves into Merton, they will have a variety of queries such as schools, and bin collections. "They can find out everything from one person rather than ringing lots of departments." The council will introduce a new telephone number which will be publicised in a poster campaign around the borough. However the old number will not be phased out for several months. Councillor Mark Allison who was involved in setting up the project said: "We are committed to making services more accessible and making sure calls are dealt with as quickly and as effectively as possible. "Merton Link is at the heart of that. It's a very big investment so staff have what they need to deal with inquiries." The initiative is part of a Government plan to improve council services by utilising new technology. Since the launch of the call centre, the council has seen the number of calls double.

From Wimbledon Guardian, UK, by Alia Waheed, 9 May 2003

Global e-Government

Northern Ireland farmers get on-line tag ordering system: Northern Ireland's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has developed an on-line animal ear-tag ordering facility for farmers. The system, accessible through DARD's 'RuralNI' e-government portal, www.ruralni.gov.uk, enables farmers to authorise approved ear tag manufacturers or their agents to order cattle tags on their behalf. Using the system, farmers can give identification details to their local tag manufacturer in the usual way and grant them permission to act as their agent; from then on the agent will be able to obtain authorisation to make and print tags from the farmer via the portal site. Announcing the new service, Ian Pearson, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for Agriculture and Rural Development, said "A multi-disciplinary team of staff from a variety of areas within my department all worked closely to bring this important service to the industry.'' Pearson also said his department would "continue to work with all stakeholders to improve and develop innovative services for the agri-food industry." G8 countries discuss use of biometrics: The governments of the G8 countries are setting up an international working group on biometrics. The Justice and Interior ministries of France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Canada, the UK and the US will co-ordinate efforts to develop biometric tools as a means of improving border control, reducing identity fraud and combating criminal and terrorist activities. Biometrics refers to the use of personal data such as fingerprints, iris scans and facial scans as a means of identification.

The working group will pay special attention to securing agreement between the countries on the type of personal information that should be included in electronic form on passports and other identity documents in the future. The group will also work to ensure that the United States' plan to implement biometric checks at borders by October 2004 does not impact on the freedom of movement and trade. The group will be co-chaired by France and the US and will submit a report by the end of the year. Accession Countries join Europe's IDA: Six EU Accession Countries have signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with the European Commission to formalise their participation in the IDA Programme. The IDA (Interchange of Data Between Administrations) is an electronic infrastructure that allows EU Member States to share data for the purposes of applying EU law, enforcing single market rules and supplying e-government services. EU Accession and Candidate Countries already enjoy observer status of IDA working groups in areas such as network security, e-government portals and e-procurement services. With the MoU in place, Slovenia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Malta, Estonia and Cyprus will now be able access services including dedicated software, technical guidelines and interoperability frameworks for implementing e-government solutions. Hungary will be next country to sign a Memorandum of Understanding, with the remaining Accession Countries (Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia) and three Candidate Countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey) due to follow suit.

Spain upgrades e-government portal: Spain's Minister of Public Administrations, Javier Arenas, has launched a new version of the country's e-government portal, www.administracion.es. The site's appearance, content and navigation have been revised and updated, and the portal now contains around 3,000 pages of information. The site is available in Spanish, English and French, and all menus and some content are now displayed in the official languages of Spain's regions -- Catalan, Basque, Galician and Valenciano. A particular effort was made to improve the site's accessibility to people with disabilities, in the wake of criticism contained in a recent report by consultancy Emergia. The study found that the portal scored a mere 22 percent in a measure of compliance with nine basic criteria for accessibility. Minister Arenas said the new version of the portal was a symbol of renewed efforts by the central government to get closer to its citizens through the development of e-government solutions. Dubai aims to create 'e-citizens': Dubai is introducing a program aimed at encouraging citizens and businesses to make use of e-government services. The "eCitizens Track" program was announced at a recent e-government conference in Dubai by Hesham Amiri, New Ventures manager of the Dubai eGovernment initiative. The aims of the eCitizens Track program are to raise awareness of computers and the Internet among citizens and businesses and to encourage the use of on-line public services.

Amiri said the program, which will be administered in conjunction with private sector organisations, has four steps: "adoption of PC usage, adoption of Internet usage, basic training and e-services training." The program ultimately aims to produce "e-citizens who would spearhead the new revolution of totally integrated on-line services," added Amiri. Currently, 24 of Dubai's government departments are on-line, and its portal site, www.dubai.ae, provides a single point of contact with the government for citizens. Australian state to set up e-health system: The government of the Australian state of Victoria has earmarked AUD138.5 million (around EUR78 million) for the establishment of a network to enable the sharing of electronic health records. According to Health Minister Bronwyn Pike, the new system would allow health services across the state to share common information related to "hospital administration, clinical systems and medication ordering." A further AUD24 million was set aside for the implementation of an electronic prescribing program in certain Victorian hospitals. The announcements were made during the release of the state's budget. In addition, ICT Minister Marsha Thomson said that Victoria would become the first Australian state to appoint a government-wide chief information officer (CIO). The role of the CIO will be to provide authoritative advice and strong leadership on ICT matters across the government.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 14 May 2003

Privacy Laws 'Hamper E-government'

UK data protection laws are hindering the progress of online government projects, a study has found. Many public sector organisations are finding it hard to juggle twin demands from existing laws and targets for online services, said a survey by a newsletter which specialises in electronic government. Around a third of public sector bodies said that the Data Protection Act was preventing them moving services online and offering what is called joined-up government. Joined-up government, often regarded as one of the goals for putting services online, requires departments to share data and information on citizens, which is explicitly prevented by data protection laws. Information technology directors in local councils around the country have called on the government to review and overhaul the legislation in order to allow local governments to hit their targets for getting services online. "One of the problems is that the laws have grown up over centuries but the internet develops month by month," said Dan Jellinek, editor of the E-Government Bulletin, the newsletter which commissioned the survey. "This body of law hasn't caught up fast enough," he added.

The survey, which questioned technology managers in both central government and local councils, also found that many departments were finding it was impossible to juggle various pieces of legislation without them conflicting with each other. "Some of the information we are required to make available under the Freedom of Information Act would require the gathering of data which seems to contravene parts of the Data Protection Act," one respondent said. Joined-up government has long been an ambition of Prime Minister Tony Blair. In conjunction with putting services online, it is seen as an opportunity to revamp and modernise the way citizens interact with government. Privacy advocates are less keen on the idea of joined-up government and are concerned that e-government schemes will increase the amount of data shared between departments.

Simon Davies, head of lobby group Privacy International, has little sympathy for public organisations struggling under the weight of the government's own legislation. "The public service, like its private sector counterparts, has traditionally been anti-pathetic toward both data protection and freedom of information. They often instinctively blame the law in those areas for their own management shortcomings," he said. "They should join the 21st century and learn that these are inalienable rights, and should be respected as such," he added. Mr. Jellinek argues that it is possible to find a balance between protecting data and making services available online. "It doesn't mean changing the law to say that councils can do what they like with personal data," he said. "But it should be possible to provide services that will improve life for citizens," he added.

From BBC, UK, 19 May 2003

Data Headache for E-government

The public sector is finding that data protection legislation holds up e-government, new research says. Data protection and freedom of information laws are hindering the progress of e-government projects, according to a study to be published later in May 2003. E-Government Outlook, a survey of public sector bodies, found that 33% of respondents believe that the Data Protection Act was preventing them from joining up services. More than 25% anticipate problems complying with the Freedom of Information Act, which will enable citizens to demand access to information held about them by public sector organisations. According to the survey by e-government publishers Headstar, there was also concern that it would not be possible to carry out the obligations of one of the acts without breaking the other. One respondent said: "Some of the information we are required to make available under the Freedom of Information Act would require the gathering of data which seems to contravene parts of the Data Protection Act." Some respondents felt that carrying out this legislation would pose cultural issues for the public sector. One respondent suggested that it would be an "impossible" administration job to undertake, whereas another said that support for the Freedom of Information Act from senior management would be very hard to obtain.

However, not everyone believes that this legislation will actually hamper e-government progress. Speaking to Government Computing News, Rosemary Jay, a senior consultant at Mason's Solicitors working in the area of freedom of information and data protection, disputed that either act will pose serious problems, and said that the real issue is about the public trusting the Government. "It's fair to say that the Data Protection Act will have an impact on data, but so it should. The bigger problem is a lack of trust and confidence in the Government keeping and handling the information properly," she said. "If people don't trust the Government then it won't work." On potential problems arising from working with both pieces of legislation she said: "The freedom of information and data protection legislation contains a careful interface between the two. It sets out rules on how you handle both acts." She did not feel that there would be problems and that a contributing factor to the scepticism is a lack of understanding. However, it is important that the Government manages things properly, she said. "Information sharing is a sensitive issue and needs to be carefully managed." The report can be found on the E-Government Outlook website at www.headstar.com/outlook.

From Kablenet, UK, 19 May 2003

£26m in Funding for E-government Announced

Eighty-two local e-government projects, from 'smart' library and transport cards to a shared database on abandoned cars, will receive a share of £26 million in funding, Local Government Minister Chris Leslie announced today. The funding awarded today is part of a £350 million drive to support local e-government over three years. This is the second installment of the £75 million set aside for local and regional partnerships. The successful projects are partnerships between different local authorities who have joined forces to share expertise, reduce procurement costs and offer local people improved services across council boundaries. Mr. Leslie said: "Projects like this help councils deliver better services to local people. Every local authority in England is now participating in at least one e- government Partnership. These partnerships show that working together can benefit everyone - the partners and the communities they serve." The partnership projects are an important step towards government targets of 'e- enabling' public services by 2005.In December 2001, councils which had identified e-government partnership in their Implementing Electronic Government (IEG) statements were invited to submit proposals for available funding of £73 million. Over 100 partnership submissions were received and the government awarded funding totalling £47 million to 64 partnerships.

From 4ni.co.uk, UK, by Mike Wwndland, 20 May 2003

Global E-government

UK promotes broadband for public sector: The UK government has announced plans to make it quicker and cheaper for public sector bodies to procure broadband services. The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) launched its new Broadband Solutions Framework Agreement at the Public Sector Expo in London last week. The agreement harnesses central and local government buying power to make a range of high-speed Internet options available to the public sector for about 20 percent less than normal market prices. Under the deal, broadband services via DSL, cable, ISDN, satellite and fixed-wireless are available from six service providers: BT, Easynet, Fujitsu, Kingston, Synetrix and Telewest. The agreement "reduces the time and effort required in sourcing broadband products by offering quality goods and services at value-for-money prices without the need for separate tendering processes," said OGC chief executive Peter Gershon. Public bodies that do not wish to avail of the agreement may choose their own suppliers, but they must engage in the traditional tendering process and negotiate their own price agreements. UK Inland Revenue admits costly IT glitch: Millions of UK workers are facing a shortfall in their state pension due to a glitch in the Inland Revenue's IT systems.

The department revealed that it had failed to remind people to top up their National Insurance contributions for five years, on account of problems arising from the implementation of the National Insurance Recording System (Nirs2) in 1998. A backlog of work created at the time of the system's introduction, which was dogged by problems and delays, resulted in the IR ceasing to send out reminder notices. As a result, around 10 million mostly low-income workers will need to pay an extra STG1,500 in contributions in order to qualify for the full weekly pension when they retire. The department issued a statement saying it would start notifying people affected by the shortfall and would give them an extra five years to make voluntary contributions. Belgian elections hit by e-voting snags: Electronic voting was beset by some difficulties in the recent Belgian general elections. Up to 3.2 million citizens, or 44 percent of the electorate, had access to e-voting facilities, which have been widely used in Belgium since 1999 and are expected to be made available to the entire electorate by 2006. The electronic voting took place at polling stations, where the ballot paper and box were replaced by a magnetic card and computer. Lengthy delays occurred at a number of polling stations, with the result that up to 10 percent of the electorate abstained from voting in some areas - a high number for a country with a system of mandatory voting, with fines for failing to do so.

The delays were a result of a limited number of e-voting booths, a number of computer or power failures, and the complexity of the e-voting system and a lack of information about how to use the system. Austria to relaunch e-government initiative: The Austrian government is planning to relaunch its e-government program this summer. An "e-government law" is due to be presented to the Council of Ministers before the summer, with the aim of enacting it before 2004. The law will deal with issues ranging from electronic signatures to data protection. There are plans to relaunch the e-government portal, www.help.gv.at, and to set up a joint board to encourage cooperation between the federal government and municipalities, as well as between government departments. In addition, the law will provide for the development of open standards and technical interfaces, along with a common e-government platform, for all elements of the administration. Federal Chancelor Wolfgang Schlussel said he wanted to make Austria one of the top five European countries in terms of e-government during his tenure. Western Australia plans training portal: The state of Western Australia is to develop an on-line portal that will provide training for small businesses. The State Training Board and the Department of Education and Training, under the auspices of Minister Alan Carpenter, will be responsible for the establishment of the Web site. A recent government report found that small enterprises were much less likely to undertake staff training than medium-sized and large businesses.

The report showed that the main reasons why small businesses did not take up training were lack of awareness, lack of time and cost implications. "The on-line portal will make it easier for small businesses to tap into the range of training services already available and will allow some training to actually be delivered on-line," said Carpenter. There are an estimated 126,000 small businesses across all industry sectors in Western Australia, accounting for nearly half of all staff employed in the private sector. Nigeria builds e-government portal: The federal government of Nigeria has announced that construction of an e-government portal is underway. The establishment of the portal is one part of the government's efforts to implement its Public Service Information Network (PSNET). The three phases of PSNET comprise the linking up of the offices of the president and the federal government, the provision of intranets for the 36 states, and the rollout of IT infrastructure at the local government level. The plan is to then integrate all of the networks, paving the way for e-government. Professor Gabriel Ajayi, director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency, said the aim of PSNET is to make the various agencies view themselves not as separate entities but as one government that shares information and provides a public service. He added that the ultimate goal of the government's investment in IT was to educate the people, to create wealth and jobs, and to boost the competitiveness of the Nigerian economy.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 21 May 2003

E-government: July's European Conference in Italy

Rome - The EU selected 65 'best practices' of the Public Administration in view of the European Conference on E-government, to be held at Villa Erba (Como), on the 7th and 8th July. The conference, jointly organised by the European Commission and the Italian government, will be attended by TLC ministers of 40 countries: the convention will focus on technology's role and on the customising of services, in order to increase productivity and reliability. "The acceleration of the process to provide customised and more efficient e-government services is a something to look forward to - says Erkki Liikanen, European commissioner for IT - This conference will present a series of measures required for a better running of the public sector, and will be the proof of Europe's determination in the enforcement of the Action Plan e-Europe 2005". The conference in Como will be a very important event of the Italian rotating EU presidency. That's what Lucio Stanca, minister of innovation and technologies , is convinced of: "e-government is an absolute priority, both for the EU and for Italy. The choice of the 65 best practices at a European level is a crucial step to make European public administration more efficient, and will help give new momentum to competition in Europe, proving that technology can play a key role as regards better relations between public administration and citizens/enterpris es". The conference will end with a joint final declaration by the ministers, and the assignment of the e-Europe awards to the best practices.

From Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy, 21 May 2003

IBEC Wants Better Public Service Value

Ireland's unenviable position as the most expensive country in the eurozone will not change unless we get better value for money in the delivery of public services, according to business lobby group IBEC. Reacting this afternoon to a Forfas report which warned Ireland was at risk of undermining its economic progress due to rapidly rising prices, IBEC economic affairs director Brian Geoghegan said that fuller competition was needed in the delivery of many sheltered services. He said that external factors were now acting to push inflation downward but unless domestic sources of excessive inflation were acknowledged and tackled Irish consumers and business would continue to suffer. "IBEC strongly supports the Competitiveness Council recommendation to Government that fiscal policy must be consistent with an inflation target of 2pc," he said. Geoghegan added that IBEC was driving these arguments forcefully under the anti-inflation initiative of the national agreement Sustaining Progress and that it supported the Government's determination to achieve price reductions in key areas such as insurance.

From Online.ie, Ireland, 22 May 2003

Force Offers 'Poor Public Service'

Nottinghamshire Police has been criticised in a government report for its poor performance. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary found that calls were not answered quickly enough and that work was needed to improve relations with the public. Steve Green, the force's chief constable, said: "I didn't come to win popularity contests... I came to make the organisation perform better and I am satisfied that we are building something that is sustainable for the future." The inspectorate did say the force was starting to improve and most officers were working hard to make Nottinghamshire a safer place. 'No one available' Inspectors said local officers sometimes all went on holiday at once, leaving no one to take calls from the public. "There are still examples of poor service to the public and it's not always clear to residents and businesses who their local officers are or how to contact them," the report said. "They would not expect this from their local bank or school - why should it be any different for the police? "In some areas the team of local officers all go on leave at the same time for four days. "Therefore there is no one available to take details of certain types of crime until the officers return form leave."

Norman Brennan, director of the Victims of Crime Trust, said there were no excuses for any force not to deal with crime in its area. Mr Brennan said: "No police force can make an excuse for not being able to tackle the crime in its force area. House burglaries "If there is a problem then the force must admit it and not look for excuses. Elsewhere, according to the report, the fraud, financial investigation and computer crime unit had no administrative staff, meaning officers were tied up with paperwork. The hi-tech unit also lacked some basic computer equipment, including a scanner. It could take up to 48 hours for a scenes of crime officer to arrive at a burglary, the report said. In 2001-02, only 67% of house burglaries were visited and in car crime only 19% of vehicles were examined, far below the national average. Nottinghamshire Police will now have monthly meetings with the Police Standards Unit, which was set up by the Home Office last year, to keep an eye on the force's progress.

From BBC, UK, 22 May 2003

Britain's Public Sector Deficit Eases

London - The British public sector ran up only a relatively small deficit in April, official figures showed on Wednesday, despite economists' expectations of another tough month. The public sector net cash requirement for April was 222 million pounds (313 million euros, 364 million dollars), according to the National Statistics office, well down on March's revised figure of 11.02 billion pounds. It was also below a consensus forecast from economists for the month of about 2.5 billion pounds. During April the previous year there was a net cash repayment of 3.04 billion pounds. The government's preferred statistic, public sector net borrowing, showed a surplus of 600 million pounds during April, National Statistics said. This compares against a revised surplus of 6.2 billion pounds in March and a 1.3-billion-pound surplus in April 2002.

From Business Day, South Africa, 21 May 2003

Reach Deploys E-gov Messaging Service

E-government agency Reach is to introduce a messaging system next month that it says will make communications between some government agencies more reliable. The Reach Inter-Agency Messaging Service (IAMS) will initially allow the exchange of specific life event information between the General Register Office (GRO), which is the central depository for records relating to births, deaths and marriages, and the Department of Social and Family Affairs' Client Identity Services Section (CIS), and between the GRO and the Central Statistics Office (CSO). For instance, it will enable the GRO to notify the Department of Social and Family Affairs about a birth. The Department will then assign the new born baby with a Personal Public Service number (the new name for a RSI number) and this data will then be sent back to the GRO. According to Reach, the key benefit of the system, which cost less than EUR200,000 to develop, is that it will provide such agencies with reliable messaging. "With this system, agencies don't have to worry about their messages not being sent or being sent twice. It will ensure that messaging is no longer a shot in the dark," said Pat Collins, technical analyst in Reach.

Another advantage of IAMS, said Collins, is that all messages will conform to the messaging standard developed by Reach. "This will relieve agencies of the burden having to standardise the messages themselves," he remarked. IAMS was developed by systems integration firm Propylon and is based on its PropelX e-government messaging hub solution. The hub is capable of accepting messages, both pushed and pulled, from diverse external systems such as Microsoft's BizTalk, which is used by GRO and CIS, Web browsers, e-mail and CORBA. The messages are then validated, transformed and passed on to recipient systems or published for authorised subscribing agencies to download. According to Brian Kennedy, vice-president of professional services in Propylon, the non-proprietary nature of the system will mean that government bodies will not be forced to work solely with Microsoft technology. "Each department and agency will be able to make their own technology decisions," commented Kennedy.

IAMS's "publish and subscribe" feature will not initially be available, but will be introduced shortly after its launch. This will enable Reach to make relevant information available to other interested agencies via a Web browser, which will reduce the need for agencies to send out multiple copies of messages. The system also allows Reach to ensure that only selected information is passed on to other agencies. For example, while all birth notification information needs to be passed from the GRO to CIS, other agencies either do not need or are not legally entitled to some or all of this data (e.g. the father's name). This should ensure that the system complies with data protection legislation. According to Reach, other government agencies will be brought on-board the system within a couple of months of its launch. However, IAMS will eventually be subsumed into the public services broker, which is intended to act as the central nervous system for e-government services. The launch of the broker has been delayed, but is expected to debut in early 2004.

From Electric News Net, by Andrew McLindon, 15 May 2003

Byers: PM Must Set Limits on Role of Private Firms in Public Services

One of Tony Blair's key allies outside the Cabinet will deliver a warning to the Prime Minister later this week that he has to take the party with him over the reform of public services. Stephen Byers, the former transport secretary who was regarded as one of Mr. Blair's key modernisers, will caution the Prime Minister about going too far in involving private companies in frontline public services. Mr. Byers will argue that the Labour government has to set limits on the extent to which private companies are allowed to get involved in key public services. His intervention, in a speech to the Social Market Foundation later this week, will mark an important new stage in the debate on public services within the Labour Party. The Prime Minister has made reform coupled with investment the key theme of Labour's second term. But he has angered many traditionalists in his party, who feel he is prepared to go too far in allowing private companies to run frontline services. Mr. Byers will call for the government to set clearer ideological boundaries on its programme of public-service reform.

And he will warn that the lack of clear lines in the sand is disturbing party activists and making reform projects, such as foundation hospitals, more difficult to achieve. But Mr. Byers's intervention will not be viewed in Downing Street as an outright warning not go any further with public sector reform. Rather, the former Cabinet minister's remarks will be seen as a sign that the government can push forward with its reforms, but only if it sets out its agenda clearly to bring the party with it. Mr. Byers released some of his remarks to the press yesterday. "The government is under clear pressure to improve public services. That is quite right," he said. "People are paying higher National Insurance and want a return on their investment. "By the next election, the danger is not that there has been too much change to the public services, but instead the reform will have been too modest and timid." Mr. Byers added: "We need to put some boundaries around the debate; some lines in the sand that people feel confident we will not cross."

Those lines should be "no charges" for essential services like health or education and "no privatisation", said the man who brought Railtrack out of private ownership. "That does not deny a role for the private sector, but the crucial point is that their involvement is in the public interest and that this comes before the interests of the shareholders." The former Cabinet minister stressed: "A clear statement of the limits will prevent those who opposed change to misrepresent proposals as well as stop those who are protecting vested interests." Mr. Byers is still valued by Mr. Blair despite the series of damaging episodes that eventually forced him to quit. The Prime Minister even allowed him to deliver his resignation statement as transport secretary from No 10. His speech is expected to re-ignite the debate over the future of public services, which dominated both the general election in 2001 and the Scottish election this year. Jack McConnell, the First Minister, has so far shown a reluctance to embrace the reforming agenda pioneered by Mr. Blair, but he will come under increasing pressure to do so if the UK government forces its agenda still further.

From The Scotsman, UK, by Hamish MacDonell, 27 May 2003

Irish Projects Vie for Top E-gov Awards

Three Irish e-government initiatives are in the running for a prestigious European award. On-line offerings from the Revenue Commissioners, the General Register Office and Reach have been selected to be exhibited at the 2003 eEurope Awards for eGovernment, which will take place in Italy this July. According to the event's organisers, a total of 357 applications for the Awards were received with 65 invited to the Awards exhibition. The Awards, which have been organised by the European Institute for Public Administration and are backed by the European Commission, have been broken into three "themes" (categories) with Ireland having a representative in each area. The Revenue Commissoners' Revenue On-Line Service (ROS) features in the "role of eGovernment in European competitiveness" category. The much-lauded ROS service allows citizens and businesses to file and pay their taxes over the Internet. The ease-of-use of ROS and the subsequent take-up of the service has been cited in numerous European reports on e-government in Ireland, helping Ireland top several EU e-government rankings. In the "a better life for European citizens" group, the General Register Office (GRO), which is the central civil repository for records relating to births, deaths and marriages in the Republic of Ireland, has been recognised for e-enabling life event data.

It is anticipated that the GRO will shortly launch a system that will allow the public to register births, deaths and marriages over the Internet. In the third category, "European, central and local government eCooperation", Reach's efforts in implementing a messaging infrastructure for intra-government cooperation have been acknowledged. Reach is set to introduce its Inter-Agency Messaging Service (IAMS) next month. The system will initially allow the exchange of life event information between the GRO, and the Department of Social and Family Affairs' Client Identity Services Section (CIS), and between the GRO and the Central Statistics Office (CSO). The organisers of the awards were at pains to stress that being exhibited does not necessarily mean that an organisation is on the shortlist for an Award. They said that the purpose of the exhibition is to allow applicants to demonstrate successful implementations to their peers. However, being chosen to exhibit is quite an achievement in itself given the high level of entries and it is likely that exhibitors will at least be considered for a possible prize.

Independent experts will evaluate and rank the projects. The eEurope Awards are part of the eEurope initiative announced by Erkki Liikanen, European Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society. They are expected to initially run from 2003 to 2005. Part of the eEurope Awards is dedicated to e-health initiatives and the North Western Health Board was invited to exhibit its mobile computing project at the 2003 eHealth Awards, which took place in conjunction with a major European e-health conference on Thursday and Friday. The health boards' initiative has seen several of its public health nurses being equipped with mobile devices. This, according to the health board, enables them to quickly access patient information when making house calls and gives it an up-to-date picture of the health needs of the community. The North Western Health Board unfortunately failed to pick up an award.

From Electric News Net, 23 May 2003

E-government Standards Body Launched

National Project will prevent duplication of e-gov efforts among local councils - The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) has established a standards body to cut out any duplication of resources for developing electronic services in local government. The Local e-Government Standards Body, which is the latest National Project, will provide councils and their IT partners with information on existing e-developments to prevent authorities making unnecessary investments and effort. "The primary aim of the e-Standards Body is to provide easy access to comprehensive and authoritative best practice and information on local service interoperability standards; analysis and development of standards and scrutiny of e-government projects," said an ODPM statement. The body will receive £2.5m from the ODPM but is expected to be self-financing before its government funding ends. One source close to local e-government developments said the funding is expected to run through 2005.

Local councils have welcomed the e-Government Standards Body as the 2005 government deadline gets closer. "It's great that it is there but it will be challenging because it has come this late," said Rod Matthews, head of information society technology at Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council. He said local e-government would benefit from universal standards. "We need to get it right first time because we cannot afford the redundancy in local government," he added. Matthews cited the creation of a universal person identification number, which covers all services, as a priority that the new body should work on. "One number for central and local government services would encourage the use of e-services," he said. Local government IT organisation Socitm will have representation on the board. Kate Mountain, chief executive of the group, said the new body could have been created earlier but "it is just in time because the National Projects are just starting and this gives a good platform for standards". She added that universal citizen log-on was just one area that had been identified for consideration by the body. "Citizens will have one log-in, and if they give information to one department it can be used by others."

From VNUNet, UK, by Karl Flinders, 28 May 2003

 

Dubai e-Government to Boost Services

Dubai e-Government's advisory board on community outreach and marketing will launch a pilot project involving five key government departments to cross-promote e-government services and activities. The action plan was formulated to promote increased awareness and usage of e-services by businesses and citizens interacting with the various government departments. The board includes representatives from various government departments in Dubai, as well as officials from the Dubai e-Government, which is playing a key role in managing this programme. "Over the past year, we have made significant progress, and at present the number of e-services being delivered online by various government departments is close to the 600 mark. We are on course to offering the full range of shared services and providing integration of all e-services," said Marwan Al Naqi, acting manager, community outreach and marketing department, Dubai e-Government. "The project is aimed at generating excitement and enthusiasm among the participating government departments and keeping Dubai e-Government's goals in the foreground." The action plan will be implemented at various levels. Specific target usage for each e-service, which has been laid down as a short-term objective, will be compared against current usage figures. In addition, awareness campaigns will be initiated to encourage citizens to make greater use of the electronic IT services, with a continuous comparison of pre-set goals against the achieved usage figures, followed, if necessary, by a review of existing policies. The awareness campaigns will focus on promoting the single gateway for all e-services through the Dubai e-Government portal, www.dubai.ae

From Gulf News, United Arab Emirates, 3 May 2003

Dubai on Right Track in E-government

Dubai is a regional leader in the e-government project and on the right track but there is scope for improvement, said a professor of information systems yesterday. Dr George K. Kostopoulos was speaking at the ninth GCC e-Government, Telecom and Internet Forum which opened on Saturday. Outlining areas which need to be improved, he said these are transition management skills, new balance of power, cadre creation, need for IT professionals, training of civil servants, cyber issues, computer literacy and Internet access. "The e-government project is an agent for change. It helps melting of government rigidity and increases decision-making transparency. "The UAE is a regional leader in e-government. Dubai is a regional consultant in e-government. It has 24 departments online, online resident permit and visa renewal, e-gate at Dubai International Airport, e-traffic advisory, e-dirham for payments and an outstanding information portal. "Bahrain, ranked 12th in e-government worldwide last year, is the first in e-voting.

It has major e-government telecom investments, Cisco, plans for IP telephony for government Intranet, and e-payments into government and business. "Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar are on the road to e-government," said Dr Kostopoulos. The five-day forum will discuss technology issues in e-Government. Tarek Niazi, executive director, SmartSquare Business Development, said: "The e-government projects are aimed to directly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the government's transactions through the use of improved technology. "Once established, these e-Government initiatives will eliminate redundant systems and significantly improve the government's quality of service for citizens and businesses."

From Gulf News, United Arab Emirates, by Samir Salama, 12 May 2003

The Ninth GCC e-Government, Telecom and Internet Forum Opens in Dubai

The forum organized from the 10th to 14th of May will discuss technology issues in e-Government. The forum is held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Maktoum Bin Mohammed Bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Technology, Electronic and Media Free Zone. The focus is on the skills, applications and technology needed to transform the way a GCC Government does business, this event bring together public sector and industry partners to identify opportunities, create innovative solutions, and implement effective online citizen services. The Forum was opened by Dr. Omer Bin Sulaiman, Chief Executive Officer of the Dubai Internet City. Mr. Tarek Niazi executive director, SmartSquare Business Development, delivering the keynote address said "The e-government projects are aimed to directly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the government's transactions through the use of improved technology. Once established these E-Government initiatives will eliminate redundant systems, and significantly improve the government's quality of service for citizens and businesses". Welcoming the gathering, Ali Al Kamali, Managing Director of Datamatix and Organizing Committee Chairman of the Ninth GCC e-Government, Telecom and internet forum said "This forum focuses on educating attendees on the continuing developments in the e-Government infrastructure". "The forum is committed to help various organizations entrusted with e-government implementation with a Citizen-centered, Results-oriented, Market-based approach towards E-Government.

The agenda offers attendees a range of options for coordinating trans-agency initiatives, resourcing mission-critical programs, and understanding the available technologies - all crucial components to creating a reliable infrastructure for e-government projects." Mr. Nauman Ahmad, Microsoft's Government Solutions Specialist in his presentation titled "Driving Digital - Virtual Network of Government Services" says "Microsoft's vision for e-Government outlines opportunities in the Information Age and how to bridge the "Digital Divide" through widespread adoption of innovative technology such as .NET. The benefits of creating a Virtual Network of Government Services will be explored. Such a network would span across private and public organizations, leverage new business models and open Internet standard technologies in order to provide services through private intermediaries and distribution channels that are better positioned to be at the front-end of the customer relationship. Additional efficiencies and a focus on more strategic objectives like wealth creation, social development, and readiness can be achieved through such an approach." Mr. Tippu Sultan Abdul Khader, Chief Technology Officer Ducont, speaking at the session "Role of Process Re-engineering, e-Government and existing legacy systems" said "Better public services tailored to the needs of the citizen and business, as envisaged in the GCC e-Government strategies require the seamless flow of information across government.

It's very essential to have an e-Government Interoperability that sets out the government's technical policies and specifications for achieving interoperability and information systems coherence across the public sector departments. The framework is a cornerstone policy in the overall e-Government strategy". Mr. Tippu Sultan Abdul Khader, added "It is very important to understand that there a quite a number of disparate systems strewn across the several Government departments. Some of them are using the old technologies and some are very adaptable to the newer emerging technologies. The E Government framework should mandate the use of specifications and policies which set the underlying infrastructure, freeing up public sector organizations so that they can concentrate on serving the customer through building value added information and services. It will be for the organizations themselves to consider how their business processes can be changed to be more effective by taking advantage of the opportunities provided by increased Interoperability". The forum is supported by organizations like Dubai Internet City, Datafort, e-Hosting Centre and Ducont. Key speakers from the region and abroad will share their knowledge and expertise on how to overcome limitations by implementing real strategies and solutions. More than 250 key professionals from various GCC government and top private organizations will assemble over the next five days at the forum.

From AME Info, United Arab Emirates, 12 May 2003

Participants Discuss Hurdles in E-governance

Muscat - Participants in the e-government symposium resumed their discussions at Al Bustan Palace Hotel yesterday. The symposium entitled 'e-governance reality and challenges' started on Saturday and is being held jointly by Muscat Municipality, the Arab Urban Development Institute and the World Bank. Qasim Sultan Al Banna, director of Dubai Municipality, chaired the third morning session which discussed the theme, 'Hurdles and challenges to the introduction of e-government'. Two papers on financial transactions through the Internet and information security and the role of legislation in applying the e-government were presented respectively by Dr Sabri Al Azizawi, a corporate official from Dubai and Dr Ali Al Baz from Sa'ad Al Abdullah Academy for Security Science in Kuwait. In the same session, Dr Omar bin Said bin Mishait from the King Khalid University, Saudi Arabia explained the administrative and human challenges involved in applying the e-government. Dr Mahmoud Hassan Nofal from Asyout University, Egypt, and Mahmoud bin Nassir Al Riyami from the Ministry of Defence, discussed the requirements of the e-government. In the fourth session, which was chaired by Mohammed bin Ali Al Wohaibi, executive president of Oman Telecommunications Company (Omantel), the speakers were Dr Rabeea' Refa'at from Sidney University and Dr Mohammed Al Mutwali from Sa'ad Al Abdullah Academy.

They addressed the issues of creating a successful e-government and qualifying manpower to run e-government, respectively. Dr Bijan Azzad from Lebanon, Dr Badr Al Deen Mohammed from Malaysia and Dr Sami Mohammed Sidqi from the UAE also presented their papers on the subject during the session. Yaquob bin Dur Mohammed Al Balushi, director of information systems department, Muscat Municipality, said the forum was held now because there was an urgent need to lay down the basic infrastructures for establishing an e-government in the Arab countries. He said the recommendations to be made at the forum would be important because the forum brought together e-government specialists and created an opportunity to discuss ideas on introducing electronic government. Al Balushi said the municipality presented its experiment of introducing online services on Saturday and had designed a strategy in this respect. He said the municipality website offered at present a number of necessary services to citizens. It also allows enquiries about rent contracts in building permits. He added it had recently being agreed with the National Bank of Oman (NBO) to collect the municipality's fees and details of the agreement would be announced soon.

From Times of Oman, Oman, 12 May 2003

Oman Studies Aspects of E-governance

Muscat - An Information Technology expert in Oman believes that Oman was not lagging behind in embracing e-governance, because it was important to first ensure the concept blended with the culture of the country. "E-governance will have to be in sync with our culture and habits," Yaqoob Dar Mohammed Al Bulushi, Director of Information Systems Directorate at the Muscat Municipality, told Gulf News yesterday on the sidelines of a symposium on e-government. "There are positive as well as negative sides to any system, thus we would like to study every aspect in detail before fully implementing e-governance," he said. According to the country's IT Strategy, which was unveiled last week, Oman could have full e-government by the end of 2007, he pointed out. "We also need to create awareness among the citizens and different departments and organisations," he said.

As such, he said, Muscat Municipality has taken initiatives by organising the international symposium. "The symposium is a big hit as we have delegates from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Jordan, Australia and other countries presenting their papers," he said. On the home front, he added: "Everybody wants to know about it. Different ministries have taken part as they are keen to know where to start....To cover 1,000 miles, we need to take one step and this symposium is our first step." He agreed that e-government will have to be more open and red tape will have to go. "Bureaucracy is part of a third world country. We have inherited this system and it cannot go overnight," he said. He stressed that IT was not a magic wand, which can drive away bureaucracy with a single swipe. "It will gradually go. It may take time. It could be slow, but change has to come and it will come." Al Bulushi said it is important that the government thinks along the lines of change. "It is important to try and we are trying. We are at least moving in that direction," he said. He modestly refused to agree that Muscat Municipality had taken a lead in the IT advancement compared to other departments. "I cannot say we are ahead. Everyone has their plans and strategy. We also have ours and we are going ahead with that," said the technocrat.

From Gulf News, United Arab Emirates, by Sunil K. Vaidya, 12 May 2003

Call to Set up Joint e-Government for GCC Countries

Dubai - The GCC Single Currency and Customs Union Forum has called for setting up a joint e-Government for GCC countries in certain fields and services such as customs and airports. It also urged setting up an international standard infrastructure, speeding up the pace of privatisation and boosting the private sector in switching to the digital process. "GCC countries are required to effectively deal in e-commerce in order to help the establishment of the GCC as a unified customs zone," recommended the forum. It further suggested that human resources capable of dealing in e-commerce must be groomed. Other suggestions included setting up unified technical standards for business sectors to be able to deal via the Internet, as well as highlighting the importance of setting up a legal and statutory base in the Gulf that will boost the capabilities of the GCC countries in dealing with e-commerce. "A suitable environment must be available to make the common e-Gulf market a success. Legislative and organising authorities are required to organise legal and commercial relations via e-commerce to ensure the rights of all parties and IT should be available at reasonable prices either for purposes of education or training without imposing any fees or duties on this technology."

The forum - organised by Datamatix - suggested giving more attention to developing legislative and legal structures, developing the basic structures capable of supporting and boosting strategies on regional unification, and taking care of the technological base to increase regional productivity. "GCC countries should grant HR training top priority and education should top the agenda of the business sector, where intensive cooperation is required among economic establishments and governments in the field of creating training opportunities and developing scientific curriculum to meet the needs of regional labour markets." Abbas Al Makki, director, International Relations and Tariffs of the Dubai Ports and Customs and Free Zone Corporation, spoke on the GCC Customs Union. The session discussed some of the teething problems faced by the GCC Customs Union.

A common taxation plan and issues in implementing unified customs plan were also taken up. Addressing delegates on the three big challenges for the GCC countries - e-government, unified custom and single currency - Dr Isaam Abbou Souf, senior information systems manager of the Arab Town Planning Organisation, Kuwait, said: "GCC countries have many common features that make them unique among Arab states. They have a combined GDP of nearly 50 per cent of the Arab economy. "Decisions like the customs union, unifying the customs tariff at five per cent and approving a unified customs law will strengthen the GCC march and boost its ties with world trade blocs." The GCC plans to implement its monetary union by 2005, paving the road for a common currency by 2010. GCC Customs Union will link the entry and exit points of the states through a computer network. A single customs tariff of 5 per cent will be applied to all taxable foreign imports, down from present individual country rates that range between five and 15 per cent.

From Gulf News, United Arab Emirates, by Samir Salama, 14 May 2003

Toward A Modern Concept Of Public Service

The Arab intellectual is not only a person who represents certain political convictions; he expresses a collective awareness on a variety of issues, making him able to interact with his surroundings. Taha Hussein, Naguiib Mahfouz and Tawfik al Hakim are but a few examples. Ever since the dawn of time, the relationship between the employee and the job has been an extension to his relationship with the sultan. The court of the Caliph is full of names of the intellectuals of the time who entertained him with poetry and literature, in addition to providing counsel. Yet history tells us that a silent crisis always existed between the intellectuals and the ruler that influenced the role of the former in justifying politics and serving the ruler. And perhaps events in Egypt following the 1952 revolt illustrate this situation best. When the new regime had to choose between employees it could trust and those who had the needed expertise. The conflict ended when the regime selected those whose loyalty it could trust at the expense of those who had the necessary qualifications. The same thing happened in other Arab countries when many intellectuals competed to please the ruling class. Now, I do not mean here to minimize the merits of Arab intellectuals. I only intend to point to the oppression that some Arab regimes have practiced against intellectuals.

It may be appropriate to offer my perception in the following points: - One: The problem at hand is more of an Oriental one than Western, because it illustrates the relationship of the individual with the ruler, and as such it is a social and political problem and not only an intellectual one.- Two: the citizen's interest in public service has been decreasing, which places a special burden on the intellectuals due to their moral and intellectual responsibility.- Three: The enthusiasm for intellectuals to participate in public duty rises when subordinating such duty to political loyalty diminishes.- Four: We are aware that the openness of some governments sometimes precedes that of popular currents, which makes the regime appear even more liberal than intellectual groups. Such fact demands observation because it illustrates a complicated phenomenon that involves cultural, political, and historic factors.- Five: Political oppression and restrictions on novelty and new ideas are matters that prompt many intellectuals to avoid the scene seeking safety. They prefer to become ordinary employees in order to secure their personal safety.- Six: The relationship between education and intellect will remain a decisive factor in the reform effort.

The education regime is responsible for forming the character of the intellectual and to prepare him for a modern life.- Seven: Modern education is directly related to modern technology. And thus, the modern intellectuals is becoming different from that of the previous centuries.- Eight: The relationship of the authority to culture is different from its relationship to wealth. The authority usually has reservations on the former while welcoming the latter. And because the intellectual is usually not wealthy, he restricts himself to the job.- Nine: The recent struggles within the intellectual scene demonstrate the negative attitude of the intellectuals and their seeking isolation because of the lack of political and intellectual freedoms.- Ten: The clash among generations has also created a split among the intellectuals, and allowed the authority to become selective in appointing its servants. The reason why I raise this issue now is because I believe that the reform effort in the Arab world mainly depends on the intellectuals. The media has said that no more than 25 American intellectuals, most of them Jews or supportive of Israel, are working on preparing the new political map of the Middle East, and that it was they who were behind the war on Iraq. We have to admit that we have failed in managing the Arab-Israeli struggle while we remained detached from the facts. Here comes the role of the Arab intellectual to act outside the parameters of his job in order to express the conscious of the people. Mr. Al Faqi is a former member of the Egyptian parliament.

From Dar Al-Hayat, Saudi Arabia, by Mustapha Al Faqi, 27 May 2003

Qabalan Urges Government to Provide Public Services

Higher Shiite Council vice-president Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan urged the government Tuesday to implement development projects and provide deprived residents with necessary public services. Qabalan, speaking during a eulogy ceremony in Zawtar Sharqieh, Nabatieh, questioned the government's failure to build factories for industries that require them such as the tobacco industry, which he said would provide good living standards for citizens in the Bekaa, as well as the North and South. "We ask the government with all its institutions to provide projects for the deprived areas in Akkar, Hermel, Bekaa and Mount Lebanon," he said, calling on officials to preserve the capital city as a point of attraction for Arab "brethren." Qabalan urged Speaker Nabih Berri to speed up the Litani project implementation, expressing support to every measure that would "bring happiness."

From Daily Star, Lebanon, 27 May 2003

 

E-gov Ready for Migration

With most of the 24 e-government initiatives having met the two-year goal for getting an initial solution up and running, agencies are ready for the next step: migrating to a single solution and turning off many legacy systems. That likely will take another 16 to 18 months, said Mark Forman, administrator of the Office of E-Government and Information Technology at the Office of Management and Budget. Turning off existing redundant systems is just as important as developing a single cross-agency solution, but "it will take until next summer to get the migrations really done," Forman said. He was speaking May 1 at the Input MarketView 2003 conference. However, no easy migration methodology exists to draw from in either government or the private sector. Most migration strategies are for moving directly to a new system that is serving a similar function as the old one, and that is not what the e-government initiatives are doing, Forman said. "We're migrating from those independent systems to one that is new for the users on the external and the internal side," he said. OMB is working with agencies to develop a migration methodology for e-government, taking into account the additional variables, he said.

The Defense Department is a part of this effort, but it is dealing with it from a DOD-specific point of view, said Mark Krzysko, deputy director of electronic business. Just last week officials announced that they would be shutting down the DOD Business Opportunities (DODBusOpps) portal over the next few months and moving to the governmentwide FedBizOpps site. However DODBusOpps fulfilled some Defense-specific needs, and the migration will continue until fiscal 2004 to make sure that those needs will still be met, Krzysko said. DOD also has moved its Federal Technical Data Solution (FedTeDS) tool, fully over to the Integrated Acquisition Environment initiative led by the General Services Administration, Krzysko said. FedTeDS provides a way to securely exchange sensitive acquisition information. It was such an effective solution that it simply made sense to make it the governmentwide solution, he said.

From FCW.com, by Diane Frank, 2 May 2003

GovBenefits Touted as E-gov Model

On the first anniversary of GovBenefits.gov, Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) yesterday praised the Labor Department's portal as an e-government model other agencies should follow. "I never thought I would be standing here promoting any type of habit-forming activity," said Putnam, chairman of the Government Reform subcommittee on IT, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census. "But citizens are joining in every day on that great new habit of utilizing e-government. We must continue to aggressively press cross-agency solutions and cooperation within our government ranks. I hope it will be habit that catches on with the same vigor." Putnam joined Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao, Clay Johnson-President Bush's nominee to become the new deputy director for management within the Office of Management and Budget-and Labor deputy secretary Cameron Findlay in a ceremony marking the progress of www.govbenefits.gov. The portal lets citizens check their eligibility for federal benefit programs by answering a series of questions. It now lists all known federal benefit programs-more than 400, said Chao. Labor launched the site with 55 programs and has added 20 to 30 a month until it brought all of the benefits programs online. Chao said about 4 million visitors have used the site in 12 months. "E-government is a major technology and culture change and Secretary Chao and deputy secretary Findlay understood that in leading this effort," Putnam said. "The Labor team and the administration will take the GovBenefits bar one-step higher by transforming it into a management tool that will allow citizens to have that transactional approach and apply online for services. It also will allow the government to manage benefit applications throughout the federal government and intergovernmentally-which is absolutely key to the success of this effort," he said.

From GCN.com, 30 April 2003

E-government Proposal is Public Sellout

As surely as Gutenberg's moveable type made possible mass communication of important ideas, the Internet revolution has made government useful, accessible and accountable in ways that couldn't be imagined a decade ago. Years of government investment in information technology now pay large dividends to ordinary citizens. Government agencies have developed Web sites that deliver an astonishing variety of valuable services and information to all who can find their way online. But elements of the business community are uneasy. They recognize that government use of information technology has made the public sector more transparent and consumer friendly. But they can't stand the idea that cheap, effective public service might stand in the way of their making a buck. A big-money, big-business advocacy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council is peddling "model" legislation that acts as a pre-emptive strike to protect this potential.

The proposed law is called the Electronic Government Services Act, and it's designed to discourage public agencies from offering citizens services that private enterprises might themselves exploit for profit. State Rep. Stephen Buehrer, R-Delta, was named the council's "Legislator of the Year" in 2002 and now he's sponsoring the act in Ohio. Critics complain Rep. Buehrer tacked the legislation - House Bill 145 - onto the impossibly complicated budget bill in an attempt to tiptoe it through without public discussion. They are gravely concerned the law will be used to keep vital public information out of citizens' hands - especially citizens unwilling or unable to pay private business a premium for the privilege. Rep. Buehrer says all he wants is to keep scarce public resources from being used to fund services the private sector can ably and economically provide. But just how are state and local government services encroaching on business prerogatives in Ohio? For what online services can the private sector offer a better deal to the public than is now being provided by public agencies? Here's what the business group backing the proposal cites as the most widespread "problem": Some states (not Ohio) offer an online service to expedite tax filings and help taxpayers calculate what they owe.

This takes bread out of the mouths of H&R Block and manufacturers of tax-preparation software sold at office supply stores. This vague threat to private enterprise hardly justifies sweeping legislation that is susceptible to abuse. The proposed bill wouldn't regulate just state agencies. It would also limit what local government agencies can do for their constituents. All would be prohibited from offering online services already provided by for-profit businesses. Proponents say the act won't interfere with public agencies' ability to offer online information and services the public has grown accustomed to receiving. But you wouldn't know it from reading the bill. Agencies that want to provide services would be required to first prepare a raft of onerous, make-work reports. Those, then, would be subject to layers of review. Businesses which aren't satisfied - or which just want to cause delay - are given the right to file lawsuits that force further review. Mr. Buehrer's bill is a lousy deal for Ohioans, one that should be rejected without delay.

From Dayton Daily News, OH, 2 May 2003

Government Boosts Its Online Security

US firm Entrust to provide infrastructure for new online communications systems - The government has chosen US security firm Entrust to provide authentication technology to boost the security of e-government transactions. Called the National Government Root, the new electronic communications system will use secure digital identification and encryption. The Root is a key part of the infrastructure needed to handle sensitive data such as tax and medical records online. The system will be administered by the Communications Electronics Security Group (CESG), part of Government Communications Headquarters. Entrust's technology behind the National Root certificate authority will provide a level of security designed to boost public confidence in the viability of online transactions. Dr Steve Marsh of the Cabinet Office told delegates at the InfoSecurity Europe 2003 show that even though many fears of cyber-security vulnerabilities were little more than "hype", security had to be got right. "Modern society depends critically on information systems, so it's essential that those systems are secure," he said. John Doody, head of customer liaison at the CESG, said in a statement: "The creation of the National Root means that we now have the means to win the confidence of every user." Bijan Khezri, chief executive of Baltimore Technologies, added that steps needed to be taken to bolster security for high-value online transactions. "There's the potential for huge costs if steps are not taken," he warned. "You can file a tax return using nothing more than a password; the bills could be big when the flaws in that system are revealed."

From VNUNet, UK, by Iain Thomson and Ian Lynch, 2 May 2003

E-Commerce Continues To Grow Very Nicely

A new report indicates that the growing availability of broadband is boosting acceptance of E-commerce. A boom in online consumer buying can be attributed, in part, to the growing use of broadband links, a new study suggests. At the same time, an overwhelming majority of businesses have at least experimented with online procurement. "Some trends such as experience online, the narrowing digital divide, and the shakeout among online retailers have been major factors influencing E-commerce since 2001," says senior analyst Ross Rubin of eMarketer, a market-research firm that has released a report titled North America E-Commerce: B2C & B2B, which combines its own analysis with data from that of other researchers. "Yet a fourth factor now comes into play: the increasing availability and adoption of broadband. Add in refinement in marketing and transaction techniques, and it's little wonder that consumers are doing more of their shopping and buying online." The study projects that U.S. consumers will spend more than $133 billion online in 2005, up nearly 50% from a projected $90.1 billion in 2003.

Other findings from the report: o The average annual amount spent online among U.S. Internet users ages 14 and up -excluding travel purchases - should rise to $928 in 2005, up 30% from this year's $717. o Nearly 60% of U.S. Internet users have at least four years of experience online; 27% have six or more years experience, according to the UCLA Center for Communication Policy. o Almost 62% of Web surfers ages 14 and up - 94.9 million people - will purchase goods and services online in 2005, up from nearly 60%, or 81.2 million users, this year. o One-quarter of U.S. adults conducted business with the government online in 2002, according to survey by the University of Maryland and Rockbridge Associates. o Canadian business-to-consumer sales hit $2.6 billion U.S., a 59% climb over the previous year. o More than 80% of U.S. companies have experimented with some form of online procurement, although most are channeling less than 10% of their total procurement online, according to data from Forrester Research and the Institute for Supply Management.

From Information Week, by Eric Chabrow, 2 May 2003

Cutter Conference Debates IT Governance Models, Techniques

Cambridge, Mass. - Panelists at an IT management conference who took part in a discussion yesterday about the best way to develop and foster IT governance models were deeply divided over which path to take. IT governance -- a methodology for keeping IT operations such as spending and labor under control -- has become a hot topic among CIOs and IT managers in recent months. That discussion has largely been driven by the increased emphasis on corporate governance in the wake of the post-Enron era, the emergence of more stringent financial accounting requirements such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, and the continuing cost pressures IT leaders face. "There is no cookie-cutter approach" to IT governance, said Rob Austin, a fellow at Arlington, Mass.-based Cutter Consortium and a professor at Harvard Business School. Austin was one of four panelists who rigorously debated IT governance issues at Cutter Consortium's Summit 2003 conference here. "There are many companies that have effective IT governance models that I have no interest in," said Lynne Ellyn, senior vice president and CIO at DTE Energy Co. in Detroit. For its part, the diversified energy company created an IT steering committee two years ago that includes Ellyn and various business leaders.

Using this approach, business unit leaders decide which IT projects need to be launched, "and IT decides how they get done," said Ellyn. It took a full year for DTE's IT steering committee "to work effectively together," she said. Having since worked through those issues, DTE's IT governance model has helped the company's IT department generate some big gains. Since the IT steering committee was created, DTE's IT organization has reduced its IT budget by 40% but has still managed to increase productivity and customer satisfaction rates, said Ellyn. In addition, the company has consolidated data centers and converted 120 external IT contractors to DTE employees, helping save the company an average of $37,000 per person. "A lot of this comes down to treating the people in different divisions, like finance and energy resources, as partners and not as customers," said Ellyn. Since joining Corning Cable Systems as CIO 18 months ago, Craig Fowler has seen nearly 60% of the company's revenues disappear as a result of the telecommunications industry bust. Since then, he has focused on centralizing IT functions for the Hickory, N.C.-based maker of fiber-optic and copper communications systems. The downturn of the telecom industry "is rewriting the rules for us and how we approach governance," said Fowler. Fowler said the main reason his IT organization has moved to a centralized approach to managing IT "is that we think we can get more costs out this way."

When he came on board the division of Corning Inc., each business unit had its own dedicated IT organization "and did their own deals on PCs," he said. "By centralizing, we're trying to increase our IT buying leverage while helping us determine what [systems] we have in place." The company has also reduced its IT staff by more than 50% and cut its IT budget by more than half. Christine Davis, an independent consultant at Crishele Consulting in Manhattan Beach, Calif., who is also a fellow on Cutter's Business Technology Council, supports a decentralized approach to managing IT - like DTE's Ellyn, but unlike Corning's Fowler -- since "centralization creates power, and decentralization leads to more collaboration and a more natural approach to how business operates," she said. But Davis also champions the use of IT governance best practices from other companies, a philosophy that drew a sharp rebuke from other panelists, including Austin and Ellyn. "You'll be fixated by best practices that work at very different types of organizations and trying to transplant those directly to your company," said Austin. Said DTE's Ellyn, "Benchmarking, at best, will show you how well your competitors were performing the last time a benchmarking test was done. You have to have the courage to do something beyond best practices."

From ComputerWorld, 30 April 2003

Bell Tolls for Wisconsin e-Gov Department

Wisconsin's legislature this week gave preliminary approval to Gov. Jim Doyle's proposal to close down the state's 2-year-old Electronic Government Department. Wisconsin faces a budget shortfall of at least $3 billion, according to legislative sources. Eliminating the department would save about $525,000, according to a nonpartisan evaluation by the state's Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Under the proposal approved Wednesday by Wisconsin's Joint Finance Committee, the state's Administration Department would reclaim tasks that the EDG assumed when the legislature created it. The fledgling department oversees about $400 million in IT spending annually. The proposal to eliminate the department appears in the state's biennial budget. Wisconsin's next fiscal biennium begins July 1, but in recent years the legislature has not passed the budget until October, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau.

Department representatives were not immediately available for comment on details of the proposal, such as whether Wisconsin would still have a CIO if the budget passes in its present form. The department has been a bone of contention between Republican and Democratic leadership in Wisconsin. Republican Gov. Scott McCallum backed the department's creation in the last biennium, but Democrat Doyle has cited it as an example of wasteful spending, legislative sources said. Although Republicans control both houses of the Legislature, its joint fiscal panel has endorsed the Democratic governor's proposal to abolish EDG. Previously, when Democrats controlled the Wisconsin Senate, McCallum had used his partial veto powers to preserve the department against legislation that would have abolished it. IT oversight functions "had already existed in the Administration Department when the Electronic Government Department was created," a spokesman for the Legislative Reference Bureau said. "Almost certainly they were carried out by the very same staff, and they likely didn't move offices but just put a new name on the door."

From GCN.com, by Wilson P. Dizard III, 2 May 2003

E-gov. Portal Will Help Streamline Construction

The Construction Industries Division of the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department has teamed with a Dublin, California e-government firm to develop a Web-based system that will allow online permit applications and tracking of construction projects. The division will use Accela Inc.'s KivaCitizen application - part of its family of Web based applications used to offer e-government portals nationwide - to automate the system by which the state permits and tracks general construction and manufactured housing projects around the state, says division director Lisa Martinez. It will allow complete tracking of all permits issued on a particular project - such as mechanical, plumbing and electrical - with one permit number, offering real-time online information about the status of permit applications. "We're trying to get away from all the paperwork we've used in the past," Martinez says of the system, which is expected to go live in September. "We hope it will go faster for the customer and provide more accurate information about what's happening on the project. Anyone can access it on the Internet without having to call in and talk to someone."

Maury Blackman, vice president of marketing and business development for Accela says the system will enable the division to more quickly turn around permitting for a property, and get inspections moving faster than the existing, arduous paper-based system. "The self service aspect cuts down on the amount of time that the government has to answer phones, and streamlines the process," he says. "It's like a government office that's open 24-7 - if you're a contractor, that has real value." Martinez says she doesn't know the final cost of the project, but when the division began discussing building a Web site four years ago, they estimated $300,000 for the project. Division staff last week began the process of compiling the data necessary to run the site. Founded in 1979, Accela provides e-government services to 450 government agencies in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

From New Mexico Business Weekly, NM, by Andrew Webb, 2 May 2003

Homeland Security, E-government top IT Spending

The federal government will spend more than $68 billion on information technology by 2008, up from $45 billion this year, predicts Input, a Chantilly, Va.-based government contracting market development firm. The government's biggest IT priorities are homeland security and e-government initiatives, Input reports, and most of the growth in IT spending will be in outsourcing services as opposed to equipment, software and communications. The biggest spenders on IT systems and services will be the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy and the Treasury Department, Input predicts. An executive summary of Input's forecast is available at www.input.com/forecast.

From Louisville Business First, KY, by Kent Hoover, 7 May 2003

Federal Web Site Wins Top Public Service Honor

The federal government's homepage, FirstGov.gov, was recognized on Thursday with one of the most highly-prized honors in public service, the Innovations in American Government Award. FirstGov, which is operated by the General Services Administration, will receive a $100,000 grant from the award's sponsor, the Institute for Government Innovation at Harvard University. At the awards ceremony in Washington, David Gergen, a former White House adviser and chairman of the selection committee, called the Web site "one of the most responsive organs in the federal government." FirstGov is billed as the government's portal, the Web site that provides visitors with a single point of access to information and services available from federal agencies. Since 1986, the Innovations in American Government Awards, which are funded by the Ford Foundation and administered by Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Council for Excellence in Government, have honored creative government programs that help solve economic and social problems. Winning programs must be original, effective and capable of being replicated nationwide. Gergen said FirstGov has distinguished itself by supplying the public with timely information about major national events, such as tracking of the debris field created by the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia in February and news about the war in Iraq.

From GovExec.com, by Shane Harris (sharris@govexec.com), 9 May 2003

E-Gov Delivers Benefits on Many Fronts

Washington - Delivering services over the Internet saves governments money, saves taxpayers time, supports small business, discourages corruption and encourages participation in government, and streamlines the bureaucracy, according to a report issued today by the Intergovernmental Advisory Board (IAB). Overall, electronic government (E-Gov) programs provide a wider range of benefits than originally envisioned by public administrator. The report, entitled "High Payoff in Electronic Government: Measuring the Return on E-Government Investments," was prepared for the IAB by the U.S. General Services Administration's Office of Intergovernmental Solutions. It is available on the GSA Office of Intergovernmental Solutions Web site (http://www.gsa.gov/intergov). Expanding E-Gov is one of five priorities on President Bush's management agenda. It is also a high priority for national, state and local governments worldwide, which use E-Gov to achieve many of their key objectives - serving constituents, reducing operating costs, consolidating operations and promoting local/regional features. A technology that has been in existence for less than a decade, E-Gov presents new challenges to public organizations, the report stated. As all government investments come under increasing scrutiny in these times of restricted public funds, there is a growing need to find the appropriate metrics to evaluate the impact of online programs. The study reported that governments value their E-Gov programs for a variety of reasons and use a range of methods to measure their benefits and determine funding priorities. Many have found that the use of traditional cost-benefit analysis and return-on-investment calculations alone does not adequately measure the impact E-Gov delivers.

E-Gov leaders around the world also recognize a universal principle related to the expected return on E-Gov investments: governments must market their online offerings extensively in order to increase the "take-up" or use of those programs and achieve the maximum payoff they offer. The report found that E-Gov programs benefit the public in five ways: 1. Financial: reduced costs of government operations/enhanced revenue collection. Governments benefit financially by Web-enabling their customer service processes, eliminating paperwork and the associated printing and mailing fees, reducing the staff required to serve the public face-to-face or by telephone, and improving cash management by online revenue collections. 2. Economic development. Developing countries and state and local governments view the Internet as critical to developing their regional economies, chiefly by enhancing tourism and by making it easy and convenient for businesses to find information they need and file required reports online. 3. Reduced redundancy: consolidating and integrating government systems. E-Gov programs that integrate systems and databases and provide one- stop sources of government information enable government to operate more responsively and more efficiently. 4. Fostering democratic principles. The free flow of information permitted by the Internet facilitates transparency and accountability in government. It also increases the accessibility of government at all levels. 5. Improved service to citizens and other constituencies.

E-Gov significantly improves citizen service by making it easier, quicker and more convenient to do business with the government online. Online tax filing, license renewal, recreation, and job search are among the most popular E-Gov programs. The IAB was created to provide advice and guidance on emerging information technology issues for federal IT professionals. Its membership consists of three federal, three state, and three local government chief information officers, IT experts in GSA, and the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils (FGIPC). GSA is a centralized federal procurement and property management agency created by Congress to improve government efficiency and help federal agencies better serve the public. It acquires, on behalf of federal agencies, office space, equipment, telecommunications, information technology, supplies, and services. Additionally, the Office of Citizen Services and Communications (OCSC) within GSA provides the resources for citizens to access federal, state and local information in a variety of ways-via the Web (FirstGov.gov), e-mail, telephone, fax, or print. OCSC also leads USA Services, an E-Government initiative that seeks to make the government more citizen-centric.

From PRNewswire, 12 May 2003

Four Agencies Get E-gov Rating Boost on OMB Management Scorecard

The departments of Health and Human Services and State, the General Services Administration and the Agency for International Development took the biggest recent steps toward gaining green ratings for e-government on the President's Management Agenda's scorecard. The four agencies improved their progress scores, moving from yellow to green, according to the most recent report card, which the Office of Management and Budget just released. Using a color-grading scheme, OMB issues two grades for each of the agenda's five management categories. One score rates overall status; the second rates progress on implementing specific programs. The Transportation Department and the Smithsonian Institution were the only agencies to drop a grade on progress, going to yellow from green. The remaining agencies' progress ratings went unchanged. OMB is tracking 27 agencies' efforts to meet Bush administration management goals on human capital, competitive sourcing, financial management, e-government and budget and performance integration.

A green rating means an agency has met all of OMB's requirements; yellow means it has met some criteria; and red means it has serious problems. The administration releases a scorecard every quarter, and changes in scores are compared to the last ratings. The most recent scorecard reported progress of agencies' work between January and March. Agencies' scores remained static for overall efforts toward getting to green on e-government. The National Science Foundation is the only agency that has reached green; 11 agencies are at yellow; and 14 are at red. On the other four management agenda items, the departments of Commerce and Education improved to yellow from red for overall status in the human capital category. Otherwise, agencies' ratings did not make any progress toward their overall scores in the other categories. The latest scorecard is posted online at www.results.gov/agenda/scorecard.html.

From GCN.com, by Jason Miller, 12 May 2003

E-Gov 2003 to Honor Innovative Agencies

Fifty government agencies will be honored for innovative e-government initiatives at the E-Gov 2003 Conference and Exposition. The four-day event starts June 9 at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The fifth annual awards ceremony will acknowledge three levels of award recipients: pioneers, explorers and trailblazers. The awards are for solutions that improve e-government delivery and exemplary achievements in e-government and higher education service delivery. Agencies in federal, state and local governments will be recognized. Representatives of winning agencies will be on hand in the government solutions center at the conference. "The installed applications showcased in the center are the models for effective service delivery, efficient processing, quick response time and state-of-the-art technical infrastructure," said Mike Smoyer, general manager of E-Gov, which is part of the FCW Media Group.

From FCW.com, by Michael Hardy, 9 May 2003

Study Finds Investment in e-Gov Is Still a Government Priority

Even in this time of tight budgets, government's commitment to reaching citizens through e-government is strong, according to a new report by the General Services Administration's Interagency Advisory Board. The report, High Payoff in Electronic Government, said that focusing technology's use on citizens' needs helps programs "achieve maximum payoff." The board, within GSA's Office of Citizen Services and Communications, provides guidance on emerging IT issues for agency technology personnel. The board's members include three CIOs from federal, state and local governments, GSA IT experts and representatives of the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils. Though dated March 31, the board's report was released yesterday. The researchers looked at federal, state and local e-government programs as well as those in other countries. The study found that governments cannot use traditional return on investment analyses because they do not fully measure the impact of e-government. Instead, governments need to develop new metrics to determine the effect e-government programs have on the public, the study said. E-government, the researchers found, has five benefits for the public: Reduces costs of government operations; Encourages economic development by promoting tourism and fulfilling business needs; Consolidates and integrates systems, which saves money and makes information easier to find and use; Increases access to all levels of government; Improves the government's service to citizens.

From GCN.com, by Jason Miller, 13 May 2003

E-Gov Benefits Are Many, Hard to Measure Fully

Electronic government programs provide a wider range of benefits than originally envisioned by public administrators, but governments are still struggling to measure those benefits fully, according to a report issued Monday by the Intergovernmental Advisory Board. E-government, or delivering services over the Internet, saves governments money, saves taxpayers time, supports small businesses, discourages corruption, encourages participation in government and streamlines government operations, according to the report. "High Payoff in Electronic Government: Measuring the Return on E-Government Investments," was prepared for the IAB by the General Services Administration's Office of Intergovernmental Solutions. The IAB was created to provide advice and guidance on emerging information technology issues for federal IT professionals. Its membership consists of three federal, three state and three local government chief information officers, IT experts in GSA and the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils. GSA is a centralized federal procurement and property management agency.

The IAB's objective was to identify the qualities that make an e-gov program exceptionally valuable to the government that commissions it, and how the sponsoring governments measure the "payoff" delivered. While little definitive work has been done in this area, according to the report, many federal, state and local jurisdictions in the United States and abroad are seeking information about the best practices in measuring the payoff of e-gov, as their investments come under increasing scrutiny in times of restricted public funds. Many governments have found that the use of traditional cost-benefit analysis and return-on-investment calculations alone do not adequately measure the impact of e-gov programs, the report said. E-gov leaders have recognized they must market their online offerings extensively to increase use of their programs and realize their maximum return on investment. They must continuously assess the citizens' level of acceptance through preference polling, customer satisfaction surveys and online trend monitoring, according to the report. E-gov programs benefit the public in five ways, according to the report: Reduced costs of government operations/enhanced revenue collection.

Web-enabling customer service processes eliminates paperwork and printing and mailing fees, reduces staff required to serve the public face-to-face or by telephone and improves cash management with online revenue collections. Economic development. Developing countries and state and local governments view the Internet as critical to developing their regional economies, by enhancing tourism and making it easy for businesses to find information they need and file required reports online. Consolidating and integrating government systems. E-gov programs that integrate systems and databases and provide one-stop sources of government information enable government to operate more efficiently. Fostering democratic principles. The free flow of information permitted by the Internet increases the accessibility of government at all levels. Improved service to citizens and other constituencies. E-gov makes it easier, faster and more convenient to do business with the government online. Online tax filing, license renewal, recreation and job search are among the most popular e-gov programs.

From Washington Technology, VA, by Gail Repsher Emery, 13 May 2003

E-gov Proponents Say the Barriers Remain the Same

More than two years after government accelerated its pace down the e-government road, agencies are facing the many of the same cultural, organizational and communication barriers, according to a panel of e-government program managers. Agencies officials today said at an Industry Advisory Council's E-Government Shared-Interest Group meeting that while progress has been made in overcoming these challenges, e-government transformation is far from complete. "Agencies need to step out of their individualism and look at the larger issue," said Laura Callahan, deputy CIO at the Homeland Security Department. "We need to deliver results that are for the common good, which is a different shift than most traditional federal agencies are used to." Callahan, who moderated the panel of four Quicksilver project managers and one agency e-government director, said agencies need to stop defending the old way agencies built systems and see how systems can be shared across agencies. Sara Hebert, the Transportation Security Administration's e-government program manager, said agencies need to consider change management and demand management before launching a new system.

TSA recently debuted six new e-government programs and the demand to use them and the resistance to change has been significant at times, she said. "We need to look at issues from a strategic perspective," Hebert said. "Processes must be in place so change is sustained. Otherwise we will shortchange the value of IT." Oscar Morales, project director for the Environmental Protection Agency's Online Rulemaking initiative, said his staff has met with more than 50 agency officials to gain support for the eventual migration to one electronic rulemaking system. "We've heard from agencies that they do things with other agencies and they have problems communicating within their own agency," Morales said. "It is important to get that face time to discuss what is e-government and how and why it is important." Other project managers also said meeting face-to-face with agency representatives about their projects has been a key to success. "We communicate the value, goals and address the culture issues at every level," said Mitra Nejad, program manager for the General Services Administration's Federal Asset Sales project. "We created working groups to address specific agency requirements."

From Washington Technology, VA, by Jason Miller, 14 May 2003

Study: E-Government Won't Succeed Without Some Marketing

Though not nirvana, a federal advisory board says e-government services can save time and money, aid small businesses, simplify bureaucracy, encourage participation in government and discourage corruption -if, that is, agencies deploying services on the Internet market the new features broadly. The Intergovernmental Advisory Board's new report, titled High Payoff In Electronic Government: Measuring the Return On E-Government Investments, states, "Not all E-gov programs are welcomed enthusiastically, despite the benefits they promise to deliver, and gaining full acceptance for E-gov will require marketing, information and education campaigns." The board guides federal IT professionals on emerging technology. "Citizens must be made aware that they can interact with their government online and that it is advantageous to do so. E-gov managers must continuously assess the citizens' level of acceptance through preference polling, customer-satisfaction surveys and online-trend monitoring," the report recommends. Government officials use many metrics in measuring the value of e-government, including traditional cost-benefit analysis and return-on-investment calculations. But these can fail to adequately measure benefits, the report states.

New and better metrics are needed, the report recommends, in order to secure funding at a time when deficits are mounting. "The important economic value of e-gov will be the transformational value of re-engineering crosscutting government processes and integrating IT investments into business processes," the report states. "There are formidable organizational impediments to this significant change-management objective, however, and internal factors are more important than competition as indicators of transformational readiness." E-government programs benefit the public in five ways, according to the board: -Web-enabling customer-service processes eliminates paperwork and the associated printing and mailing fees, reduces staff and improves cash management when online revenue collection is used. -Businesses are using online services to more easily determine what information the government needs of them and then filing that information online. Tourists also are using the Web to plan trips. Both aid local economies. -E-government programs that integrate systems and databases and provide one-stop sources of government information make agencies more responsive and efficient. -The free flow of information permitted by the Internet promotes transparency and accountability in government. It also increases the accessibility of government at all levels. -E-government significantly improves citizen service by making it easier, quicker, and more convenient to do business with the government online. Online tax filing, license renewal, recreation, and job searches are among the most popular E-government programs. The advisory board consists of nine government CIOs, three each from federal, state and local governments; General Services Administration IT experts; and representatives from the not-for-profit Federation of Government Information Processing Councils. *This story courtesy of Techweb.com.

From CRN, by Eric Chabrow, 14 May 2003

'Cultural Mindset' of Employees Called Barrier to E-gov Progress

The "cultural mindset" of federal workers poses a major challenge to implementing online government services, some officials said on Wednesday. Yet the leaders of several Bush administration projects designed to ease citizen access to government services told a group of industry and government attendees at the Industry Advisory Council's quarterly e-government meeting that governing structures are in place to help move those projects forward. In 2001, the administration unveiled 24 projects designed to increase online access to government, design services around the needs of Americans and seize new technologies to make agencies function more efficiently. One project called for a central Internet site for information on and applications to receive some 600 federal grant programs. So far, the project is slated to meet the first of two major goals by posting comprehensive information on nearly all grants on the new Grants.gov Web site.

Charles Havekost, program manager of the Grants.gov project at the Health and Human Services Department, said a key challenge has been getting workers involved in the various grant programs to begin thinking about how their programs are the same and how those similarities can be leveraged to ease the ability of citizens to apply for federal funding. "Each agency has spent a lot of time focusing on how the programs are different from programs at other agencies," he said. "We've had to come in and turn that on its head and say, Let's think about what's the same.' That's probably been the most difficult discussion." Oscar Morales, who is overseeing the creation of a consolidated online system for federal rulemaking at the Environmental Protection Agency, agreed. "Folks tend to think in terms of their own agency, " he said. "That's a big cultural thing to overcome." Part of the problem, said Sara Hebert, the e-government manager at the Transportation Security Administration, is that funding often drives that mentality because federal programs receive money when they are deemed unique.

But panelists noted that the White House Office of Management and Budget, which is leading the overall e-government drive, is seeking to remedy that problem by allocating funds to agencies that can work together to consolidate similar programs and jointly leverage their resources. Despite cultural barriers within the bureaucracy, e-government managers said they are moving forward, establishing new mechanisms to govern their projects and to ensure that the creation of consolidated services will survive long term. Grants.gov, for example, has an executive board composed of high-level executives from the federal agencies participating in the project. Other programs, including an initiative to consolidate the way the government manages assets, are organized centrally. Havekost noted that funding is still an issue for Grants.gov. The executive board has approved a funding mechanism, he said, but several participating agencies have yet to contribute their shares.

From GovExec.com, 14 May 2003

IAC to Offer Advice on E-gov Governance

The Industry Advisory Council will offer recommendations this summer to the Office of Management and Budget on how to face the governance challenges posed by cross-agency e-government efforts. The IAC E-Government Shared Interest Group's Government Advisory Board approached the industry association asking for assistance in this area as the initiatives move toward full implementation, said Tricia Iveson, vice chairwoman of the shared interest group. She was speaking at the general interest meeting held by the group May 14. Developing those recommendations will not be easy because every initiative has slightly different challenges. Some already have a fairly extensive governance structure in place, such as the Grants.gov initiative for moving the federal grants process online, which has a full-fledged interagency executive board and a working board. That arrangement is proving to be effective as a way to develop strategies, determine funding, conduct outreach activities and other actions necessary to move the initiative forward, said Charles Havekost, program manager for the initiative at the Department of Health and Human Services. The biggest problem at this point is getting the agencies involved to feel that the Grants.gov initiative is something they need and that will help them, instead of something they are being forced to participate in, he said.

Others, including those involved in the e-Rulemaking initiative, are working toward developing a formal structure. So far, the initiative leaders have been relying on cooperation, said Oscar Morales, program manager for e-rulemaking at the Environmental Protection Agency. E-rulemaking leaders are forming an executive board of all of the chief information officers of the agencies involved in the initiative, but that came about mostly because the CIOs wondered what was happening when they got a letter requesting funding from EPA CIO Kim Nelson, he said. Meanwhile, e-government leaders attending the meeting cited a common challenge: the culture change of thinking about common goals among agencies instead of unique goals, and the process and funding changes that go along with that. Explaining that concept and getting everyone to believe in it has been a significant challenge, said Sara Hebert, the Transportation Security Administration's e-government program manager. "We're supposed to solve the right business problems the first time around," and that cannot be done by the information technology officials within an agency, she said. The need and the process must be set by the business officials before the IT staff can come in. "We need to look at issues from a strategic perspective," she said. "Processes must be in place so change is sustained; otherwise, we will shortchange the value of IT."

From FCW.com, by Diane Frank, 15 May 2003

E-gov Chief 'Very Happy' With Progress on Initiatives

Electronic government is becoming a staple of the Bush administration's underlying agenda for transforming the federal government. But the work involves more than simply posting documents online. To Mark Forman, the first director of the new E-Government Office at the Office of Management and Budget, it is about fundamentally changing the way government functions and leveraging technology to enhance those operations. Forman recently talked with Maureen Sirhal of National Journal's Technology Daily. Here are excerpts of that interview: Q: Some people have criticized the various aspects of the 24 e-government initiatives, specifically Project Safecom-which aims to make wireless public-safety systems able to communicate with each other-and the e-authentication initiative, suggesting that they are lagging. What do you say in response? A: Well, first of all, I'm very happy with the progress of not just the 24 e-government initiatives but the whole expanding e-government President's Management Agenda initiative. I look at some of these metrics-for example, the Nielson Net ratings that's now tracking the federal government usage. In [January] over 49 percent of American businesses were online with us. ...That's a real milestone for us. I look at how we restructured Firstgov.gov to be more citizen-friendly and [require just] three clicks to service. ... Last year we had 37 million users, and that's an awful lot of citizens. ... Safecom, I'm very comfortable now with this, the way it is being integrated into the Department of Homeland Security. ... The big change for us continues to be the need for voice and data as opposed to just a voice-radio system. ... So, the next step ... is [to determine] what are the requirements for voice and data in those interactive public-safety wireless devices.

Q: How much money has been allocated by the federal government for cybersecurity in fiscal 2003? A: In 2003, $4.2 billion. That's for our internal cybersecurity. There's more money than that for external. ... And that's a huge jump. I believe it was $2.5 [billion] in [fiscal 2002]. Q: How do you work with the Bush administration's cybersecurity adviser, Howard Schmidt? How will that role be filled when he leaves? A: I can't talk too much about how it will be filled when he leaves or how the effect will be, but I can tell you how we've been operating, and a lot of this will obviously be made public as details are fleshed out. The director of OMB is responsible for federal agency IT security. ... NIST, the National Institute for Standards and Technology, defines the technology standards. OMB issues the guidance and we do the follow up. ... Basically, we had to say what percentage of the systems are secured now that need to be properly secured. We're around 60 [percent], and we need to be 80 [percent] by the end of this year. ... We've made terrific progress, but we're not done. The second prong is to be able to respond to vulnerability and threats within 24 hours. We need an instant-response capability. One of the things that was set up ... was the [Cyber Warning Information Network]. ... As it turns out, most of the cyberthreats attack the WhiteHouse.gov Web site. ... [P]eople use that as a virtual attack on the president. And so I get early alerts, we then alert the [federal chief information officer], and we've got the cycle time [from] the CIO council [to the Federal Computer Incident Response Center] down to 90 minutes or less. ... We've been able to make it work in as fast as 24 hours.

Q: Do you need more of a focal point within OMB on cybersecurity, the way you would on privacy? A: We have three times the amount of people working on cybersecurity than we do on privacy. Both are major initiatives. We have a management philosophy difference in the center. My view on this is that cybersecurity has to be integrated with an architectural one. The way you address [cyber] vulnerabilities is with systems architecture and systems operators who can manage the architecture. ... We have to get the cybersecurity folks with the people who are managing the infrastructure; otherwise, you get ... people in the cybersecurity arena crying that the sky is falling because they are not in charge. And that doesn't help us. Q: What has OMB done on "open source" software? A: Federal agencies have invested a lot in the open-source capabilities ... [especially] at the mid-tier [computer]-server level. The issue for us is cost. A lot of people say you have to use open source because it's free, but the operations and support cost is not free for open source. ... I don't see us saying we're not going to use open source, and I don't see us saying we must use open source. Our policy is to use it where it is appropriate, and we are seeing that play out with a fairly growing demand ... in servers. Q: How confident are you that companies without a big presence in Washington are going to have a chance to get at the e-government information technology pie?

A: I want to encourage them to come and engage in the competition. We have to get more value for the $58 billion that we are spending, and we are going to have to get a lot more people given the dramatic increase over the last couple years in IT spending. If we don't put in more people, we end up paying more per hour, which I don't think is a good deal for the taxpayers. So we're looking for ways to pull people in, but by the same token, the vendors have to understand that the government doesn't do a good job being the integrator. We need to be a solutions buyer. Q: Does that mean companies need to go out and get the subcontractors together and come to you and say this is what we've got? A: It depends. It's hard to talk in generalities, but what it means is that when new companies come in the marketplace, they should be looking at the IT data that we put up with the budget. What are the agencies buying? What are some of the performance measures they are looking? Vendors should come in understanding that we're a fairly intelligent customer but that in some ways it is difficult for us to deal with new ideas unless somebody can relay how the new idea affects our needs. Q: Where is the clearinghouse for new innovative e-government technology? A: The marketplace. I don't believe the government can create a clearinghouse per se. Everybody has to do market research. ... [W]e're becoming smarter about how we do market research. But the bottom line is we have to do a better job at identifying our requirements. That's why I maintain an open-door policy. Virtually all the [agency] CIOs maintain an open-door policy for ideas. But the other thing that we're doing is making out requirements that are known.

From GovExec.com, 16 May 2003

OMB Details Procedure for Obtaining E-gov Funding

Agencies looking to get a portion of the Office of Management and Budget's e-government fund will need to submit a proposal that includes a description of the initiative, a justification for the funding and a spending plan. Mark Forman, OMB's administrator of the E-Government and IT, earlier this week issued a memo to CIOs outlining the process to obtain a piece of the $5 million e-government fund Congress allocated for fiscal 2003. Agencies will have a slightly smaller pot to compete for after OMB last week allotted $470,000 of the fund for a contract to Touchstone Consulting Group of Washington. Touchstone will assess cross-agency collaboration and consolidation opportunities in six lines of business: financial management, human resources, data and statistical development, public health information, criminal investigations and public-health monitoring. Forman also asked CIOs to follow the procedures outlined in the E-Government Act of 2002. OMB will review the proposals, and its director will grant final approval. In 2002, OMB awarded funds to the General Services Administration's E-Authentication project and FirstGov portal, the Labor Department's GovBenefits portal and the Small Business Administration's Business Compliance One-Stop initiative.

From GCN.com, by Jason Miller, 15 May 2003

E-government's Potential Falling Short in Michigan

For all the talk about e-government and streamlined services, with few exceptions, Michigan's local governments are doing a miserable job of using the Internet to serve their constituents. That's the inference of the latest survey from Cyber-state.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public and private life in Michigan through information technology. Of the 1,858 units of local government in the state - counties, townships, cities and villages - only 376 have a Web presence. That works out to about one in five. And of those 376 sites, which serve about 62 percent of the state's population, the vast majority are what Internet critics call brochure-ware - public relations content seemingly aimed at boosting the images of the governmental units and the politicians who control them. Yet there are some Michigan counties that embrace e-government. Oakland County, for example, is clearly the state's most tech-savvy county, with 68 percent of its local governmental agencies online.

Other leaders include Ottawa County, 58 percent; Wayne County, 57 percent, and Washtenaw and Kent counties, both 50 percent. The Oakland County site, www.co.oakland.mi.us, is "one of the best examples of a local Web site anywhere in the nation," according to Charles Kaylor from the Public Sphere Information Group, the organization based in Newton, Mass., that helped Cyber-state.org evaluate Michigan's local governmental sites. From filing an assumed name to ordering birth, death and marriage certificates to getting permits for county parks, Oakland's site exemplifies the way interactivity can help local government be more responsive and efficient, says Kaylor, an expert in the growing e-government movement. "Two years ago, only the very largest cities in the nation had Web sites," he says. "Now, about half of all cities in the 100,000 to 200,000 population range have them, and it's quickly trickling down to even smaller units of government." Still, only three Michigan communities show up on a list Kaylor's organization compiled that ranks the e-government services of 111 cities around the country -- and all are toward the bottom.

Ann Arbor (www.ci.ann-arbor.mi.us) is 82nd on the list, Detroit (www.ci.detroit.mi.us) ranks 103rd and Grand Rapids (www.ci.grand-rapids.mi.us) is 108th. But having a Web site and providing citizens what they want is often another matter. The Michigan survey found that what citizens and businesses most want from a governmental Web site is the ability to file complaints, obtain permits, buy dog licenses, pay taxes and do business with local government online instead of standing in line. "On the whole, that is not yet happening," Kaylor says. Cyber-state.org says roughly 81 percent of Michigan residents visit a government Web site a month. Users want content, not clutter, as well as transactional services and interactivity, says Katherine Willis, the group's executive director. As examples of excellent interactive local government Web sites in Michigan, Cyber-state.org points out: Ypsilanti Township (www.twp.ypsilanti.mi.us): Among services on the site is an online form to report finding a lost dog. Saginaw Township (www.sagtwp.org): Interactive property assessment records are available. Cass County (www.casscountymi.org): The animal shelter provides an online adoption service for dogs and cats. The City of Muskegon (www.ci.muskegon.mi.us): Users can search for minutes of city council meetings. Kinross Township (www.kinross.net): This Upper Peninsula township has snowmobile trail reports.

From Detroit Free Press, MI, 18 May 2003

Government's Online Service Cures Hassles

Government Online Portal Cures Hassles Medical practitioners don't have to go through the pains of renewing their licenses the "old-fashioned way," thanks to the Hawaii state government's new online portal at www.ehawaiigov.org. The program allows Hawaii's 17,000 nurses and acupuncturists to renew their licenses online, as part of an ongoing effort by the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to implement efficient online filing procedures for businesses and professionals. Nurses and acupuncturists must renew their licenses every two years - they have until the end of this month to do so. In the last renewal cycle in 2001, more than 2,600 nurses renewed online. "That's about 20 percent of total nurse renewals," says Dan Morrison, general manager of eHawaiiGov. "The online process is easier and faster than filling out the paper forms, plus for the first time, you don't need a credit card. You can pay directly from your checking account. Instructions for the online application was registered to each license holder. The development of the online service is part of the state's overall campaign to improve efficiency and service by implementing electronic government within the state of Hawaii. Currently, ehawaiigov.org has more than 20 online applications that residents, businesses and even visitors can use to conduct business with the state government via the Internet.

From Hawaii Business, HI, 19 May 2003

 

Global E-government

Irish police upgrade crime scene technology: The Irish police force, An Garda Siochana, has commissioned Siemens Business Services to upgrade the Exhibit Tracking System used by the Garda Technical Bureau. The system, which was originally implemented by Siemens, keeps track of all "exhibits," or evidence, found at the scene of a crime that needs examination by the Technical Bureau. Exhibits such as fingerprints, ballistics and documents can be audited and tracked by the system from the time they arrive into Garda headquarters. The system also records the results of tests performed on the exhibits and facilitates the statistical analysis of crimes and exhibits over extended periods of time. "This new upgrade will allow for increased capacity and improved response times, utilising the most recent technologies," said Derek Wilson, managing director of Siemens Business Services. Skills gap obstructs e-government progress in UK: A lack of skills is the main obstacle in the way of local authorities in the UK that are trying to implement e-government strategies, according to a report due to be released by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM).

A survey of senior officers in all councils across England found that while 97 percent of local authorities currently have a senior officer in charge of e-government, nearly three-quarters said their staff "lack sufficient skills and understanding in relation to e-government." The study also indicates a shortage of the business skills associated with e-government, with more than 80 percent of councils saying that their officers lack "change management" and "process reengineering" skills. Furthermore, just 20 percent of councils have calculated the costs and benefits of their overall e-government programme. Although the majority of councils (94 percent) are attempting to provide training for their officers, it is mostly done on an "ad hoc basis," the report said. EC launches e-business portal for SMEs: The European Commission has launched an on-line portal to provide information on the legal aspects of e-business for small to medium-sized enterprises. The site, eBusinesslex.net, is available in 12 languages and is a result of the ELEAS (E-commerce Legislation Easily Accessible to SMEs) project, which was started in October last year. The aim of the initiative is to facilitate cross-border electronic transactions and to help SMEs make the most of the EU single market.

The portal provides a guide to all of the legal aspects of electronic trading, such as on-line payments, privacy issues, data protection and intellectual property rights. Other resources on the site include a database on e-business legislation, an e-business glossary and a guide to e-business self-regulatory initiatives. The portal was developed by the Enterprise Directorate General of the European Commission, in collaboration with the network of Euro Info Centres. Iceland fails to bridge digital divide: Electronic government in Iceland is doing little to stop the digital divide from widening, according to a study by independent researcher Jon Thorsteinsson. In a survey of the Web sites of 20 local authorities, Thorsteinsson found a marked increase in the differences between the sites of more populated areas and those of less densely populated regions in the country. The former were found to have more content and services than the latter, as well being easier to access. The study says that people who live in rural areas often have poor access to the Internet and are becoming more marginalised from the government.

The survey shows that Iceland is failing to make the most of its position as one of the best-placed countries to benefit from e-government: The World Economic Forum's recently released "Global Information Technology Report 2002-2003" ranked Iceland fifth in terms of "networked readiness" - a measure of how prepared an economy is to capture the benefits of technology in order to promote economic growth and productivity. New Zealand to consider use of open source: A government report in New Zealand has recommended that departments consider the implementation of open source software. A State Services Commission briefing paper, authored by E-government unit director Brendan Boyle, was sent to all government department chief executives and will be brought to the attention of the government's IT procurement staff. The report did not explicitly advocate the use of open source but said that New Zealand should follow the UK's lead by taking a neutral position on the issue. When buying software, government agencies should be encouraged to assess open source alternatives in terms of cost, function, interoperability and security, the report said.

The paper noted that the governments of South Africa, Argentina, Italy, Peru and India encourage or require government bodies to use open source software wherever feasible. New Jersey ramps up e-fingerprinting: An electronic fingerprinting system is to be installed in all New Jersey jails, according to state officials. The new "Live Scan" system will replace the ink-and-roller method of fingerprinting with an electronic scanner that captures and stores the biometric data in a database. The system is linked to a national criminal database, which, if a match is found, brings up a person's criminal history and other personal data. The USD400,000 system, funded by federal and state grants, will speed up the process of identifying suspects - a procedure that used to take between seven and 14 days but with the new system will only take a matter of minutes. State officials said it would also become easier to identify suspects who use false names; currently around 40 percent of all New Jersey inmates have four or five aliases. The New Jersey State Police and some county jails are already using the technology, and the system will be implemented throughout the rest of the state by the end of the year.

From Electric News Net, by Sylvia Leatham, 30 April 2003

Study Spells Out e-Gov Benefits

Governments worldwide have many different reasons turning to e-government, but five common benefits exist that cut across all levels of government and all nations, according to a study released May 12 by the Intergovernmental Advisory Board. The report, prepared by the General Services Administration's Office of Intergovernmental Solutions, identified the following as the common elements: * Reduced costs and increased revenue, particularly from Web-enabling customer service processes and collecting payments online. * Economic development, through increasing tourism and making it easier for businesses to find and file reports online. * Reduced redundancy, through integrating systems and providing one-stop sources for information and services. * Fostering democratic principles by making government processes transparent and increasing accountability for government. * Improved services to citizens, such as online tax filing, license renewal and recreation. While tighter budgets are driving officials toward using e-government, very few have expertise in putting together good e-government solutions, according to the report. Governments must therefore move carefully and continually check with their constituencies to make sure they are delivering the right services in the right way, and focus on re-engineering processes to enhance service, the report states.

From FCW.com, by Diane Frank, 12 May 2003

NGO Concern Over Public Services Baseless-WTO Envoy

Geneva - Claims by anti-globalisation groups and labour unions that current global trade negotiations will force privatisation of public services are baseless, a senior developing country envoy said on Thursday. The issue is high on the list of causes - alongside the invasion of Iraq - for planned demonstrations against the June 1-3 summit of the Group of Eight (G8) industrial countries to be held in Evian, France, just across Lake Leman from Geneva. Alejandro Jara, Chile's ambassador to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and chairman of talks on opening up service industries, said: "Concerns expressed over public sectors are all unfounded, even completely unfounded." "There is no reason for the sort of concern expressed by many NGOs (non-governmental organisations)," he said, adding offers made so far showed governments were not giving up regulatory powers in areas like health and water. Organisers, who expect tens of thousands of protesters to block roads between central Geneva and France for up to a week around the summit, say the 146-member WTO is a tool of the major powers to impose economic domination on the rest of the world.

Even moderate labour groupings, like the Brussels-based International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), say the only way to protect education, health and public utilities is to exclude them formally from the services talks, or GATS. The British-based World Development Movement (WDM) says the European Union, driven by powerful service industries, is pressing many developing countries to open up water services, electricity supply and postal deliveries. NGOs say the United States is driving hard to get openings for its private health and education firms. But Jara said at a news conference that the 25 negotiating offers tabled so far in the talks - part of the WTO's overall Doha Round of free trade negotiations due to be completed by the end of 2004 - show that the services governments provide are excluded from GATS. Public services, which in some poorer countries are already contracted out to private firms, would only be opened up to full international competition under GATS "if governments want them to be," he said. NGOs point to Bolivia, South Africa and Colombia as countries where, they argue, privatisation of water, electricity and telecommunications has led to costlier and worse services.

From Reuters AlertNet, UK, by Robert Evans, 22 May 2003

 

World Bank Funds Government of Malawi to Implement CODA Financial Management System

Part of the World Bank's $24 million project to improve accountability and transparency in Malawi - CODA system will control expenditure of Government's $55.5 million budget, including Ministry of Health's drugs initiative to fight HIV/AIDS - The World Bank, one of the world's largest sources of development assistance, is funding the Government of Malawi's implementation of an Integrated Financial Management and Information System (IFMIS) from financial software specialist, CODA Group. The CODA system will provide commitment accounting and allow all financial management functions to be carried out electronically, providing a transparent budgeting process across the Government's operations. This will improve control of expenditure at the Government's 40 departments and help to improve delivery of education, agriculture and health services, including the Ministry of Health's initiatives to fight HIV/AIDS in Malawi. The implementation forms part of the World Bank's $24 million Financial Management, Transparency and Accountability Project (FIMTAP) which aims to improve the use of public expenditure in Malawi to help reduce poverty.

The Government of Malawi has an annual budget of 55 billion Malawian Kwachas, (approximately $55.5 million) and CODA's IFMIS will help ensure that this is efficiently managed across all public departments. The system will automatically link planned budget and actual cash budget demands, allowing managers to better schedule expenditures to minimize cashflow problems and improve public service delivery. It will also increase accountability for managers and improve transparency to reduce corruption. Rob Floyd is public sector management specialist at the World Bank: "Malawi remains very poor, with significant development challenges exacerbated by high incidences of HIV/AIDS, recent severe drought and food shortages. World Bank financing will help the Government in its efforts to improve public expenditure management in order to ensure that money is used appropriately and efficiently and is delivered where it is needed most - working towards alleviating poverty and related social issues. Good financial management and transparency of information within Government is at the heart of this and that is why we are funding the implementation of new financial management systems.

From Malawi Here, Africa, 8 May 2003

Government Re-affirms Commitment to End Corruption

The Government has re-affirmed its commitment to rid the country of corruption. Corruption distorts policy making and derails priorities setting, the Permanent Secretary for Governance and Ethics, John Githongo said. The new reform initiatives by Government were geared towards rekindling donor trust, Githongo said. Speaking in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, yesterday, Githongo called for prudent management of national resources for economic growth. Corruption undermines the legitimacy and credibility of Governments and corporate organisations, he said. In a speech read on his behalf by the Director of Statistics, Mr. David S O Nalo, Githongo called for transparency in management of financial information and statistics to ensure good governance. The occasion was the Third meeting of the Committee on Development Information (CODI) organised by the Economic Commission for Africa. Prof Mohammed Salih of the Institute of Social Studies at the Hague, Netherlands gave the key-note speech on Information and Governance. The conference runs for a week and seeks to discuss public financial management and accountability, private sector governance, decentralisation and civil society participation and empowerment.

Other crucial issues include, human rights and governance and regional and sub-regional initiatives for statistical development in Africa. The PS called for timely statistical information on unemployment and child labour to design policies and programmes for employment creation. Githongo said public finance information remains one of the most poorly organised of official information in many African countries. "Many Governments respond with hostility not only when ostensibly 'secret' information was released to the public, but preferred to organise information to reflect the perception of Government," he said. These have led to poor financial management and hence bad governance, the PS said. Githongo said the challenge of public financial management was a phenomenon of both the public and private sectors. Meanwhile, experts in development information from 53 African countries have gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the third meeting of the Committee on Development Information (CODI). They will for the next one-week discuss the link between development information and good governance.

From East African Standard, Kenya, by Haroun Wandalo, 12 May 2003

Government Plans for 'Friendly' Tax Policy

Abuja - The Federal Government has declared that it will soon embark on a deliberate policy aimed at tackling the issue of multiple taxation in the country. Government, through machinery of the Tax Systems Review Group says it is working towards the institutionalisation of the process that would ensure that the nation's tax system becomes more revenue yielding and to render it more friendly to the tax paying public. Disclosing this fact to news men in Abuja, Thursday, was the Chairman, Committee on Nigerian Tax Systems Review, Professor Dotun Phillips while speaking at the formal opening of the 5th Annual Tax Conference being organised by the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN). According to Phillips who was a one time economic adviser to the President noted that part of the country's tax multiplicity problem had arisen over time due to illegalities being perpetrated at different levels of the nation's tax administration process, stressing that government will put in place enabling measures with a view to minimizing the incedence of multiplicity in the nations tax system. "What we want to do is that we want to make our tax system much positive than it is now, in terms of revenue yield, in terms of simplicity, in terms of ensuring low tax regime and in terms of what we call a tax payer friendly system. "These are some of the problems we are looking at and we are going to come with recommendations to remove this problem of multiplicity of taxes in the Nigerian system".

He specifically berated authorities at the local government administration whom, he said, most often than not do impose various other forms of taxes beyond the legal provisions as specified by the decree 21 of 1998 on tax administration at different tiers of government. Earlier in her opening address at the occasion, the outgoing President of the institute, Mrs. Adebimpe Balogun decried what she called the poor state of the nations tax administrative system, while stressing on the need to further expand on the nations fiscal policy legislations so as to cover other areas of the economy that are lacking in enabling policy measures. She noted that despite the observable improvements in the government's policy initiatives, revenue generation capacity of the government was yet to show a remarkable growth. The slow pace of revenue generation drive, according to her, was more as result of the apparent lack of political will to implement existing policies as well as the problems of corruption, poor monitoring machinery and management culture which has become serious issues militating against economic advancenment and growth, and a treat to both foreign and local investors.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, by Clifford Amuzuo, 16 May 2003

 

Malaysia's Public Bank Wins Court Approval for Public Finance Privatization

Kuala Lumpur - Public Bank Bhd said it had on April 30 secured the High Court of Malaya's approval for the proposed privatisation of Public Finance Bhd. In a statement, Public Bank said it secured Public Finance shareholders' approval at a court convened meeting on April 11, and Public Bank shareholders approval on April 18. The Public Finance privatisation exercise involves a share exchange between Public Bank and shareholders of Public Finance on the basis of three new Public Bank shares for every one Public Finance share. It also involves a declaration by Public Finance of a special gross interim dividend of 138.9 pct, subject to a tax deduction of 28 pct, prior to the completion of the share exchange. Public Bank will be undertaking a 1-for-4 bonus issue after completion of the privatisation.

From MENAFN, Africa, 5 May 2003

Finance Ministry Clarifies No-Tax Policy on Imports to Fight SARS

Taiwan's Minister of Finance Lin Chuan in a statement yesterday reminded the public that the government had removed tax on all imported medicine and medical equipment intended for use in the fight against SARS. He also stated that items not classified as medicine or medical equipment but still related to preventing or treating SARS may qualify for tax-free status, to be decided by the government on a case-by-case basis. Lin also announced that customs inspection procedures on products imported from mainland China and Hong Kong will be upgraded, but that inspection procedures on any products relating to the fight against SARS will be speeded up.

From Biotecheast.com, Taiwan, 6 May 2003

Tax Conversion Commission Submits Series of Four Strategic Tax Policy Changes

The Governor's Tax Conversion Commission held a press conference this afternoon to formally present its recommendation for the future of tax policy on the island. The presentation of the Commission's recommended steps of action for local tax policy outlined four distinct actions to be taken. These are relative to actions seeking improvements in collections for the Department of Revenue & Taxation, the establishment of a standing Tax Review Commission, more open channels of communications between that Commission, the Camacho Administration and Legislature, and the implementation of a visible gross receipts tax on island. The latter of the points has been the topic of discussion between local vendors and policymakers, as such would make optional the publishing of the amount of GRT paid by consumers onto receipts. A notable revelation was Commission Chairperson Ron Leach of the Bank of Hawaii stating the Commission's initial research indicated a lack of sufficient supporting data available from the government with which to apply economic modeling. The recommendations were designed with best-case intentions, with all four proposals, if adopted, slated to impose no dramatic changes to Guam's current tax policy. Leach also commented on the differences (if any) between the Commission's plan in its design and the initial proposal as submitted by Speaker Ben Pangelinan. Leach says in designing its strategies, the Commission found several notable points with Pangelinan's plan that it did find positive, however in the aggregate, they found the Speaker's plan ultimately not feasible for the island.

From KUAM-TV, Guam, by Jason Salas, 8 May, 2003

Guangdong Publishes Preferential Tax Policies in midst of SARS Crisis

Guangdong Province in south China Friday published a series of preferential tax policies aimed at supporting enterprises seriously affected by severe acute respiratory syndromes (SARS). Guangdong Province in south China Friday published a series of preferential tax policies aimed at supporting enterprises seriously affected by severe acute respiratory syndromes (SARS). Statistics show SARS has had an obvious impact on the tourist, transportation, entertainment and catering industries in Guangdong,the site of the first reported SARS case. Under the preferential policies, the basis of business tax is lowered to varying degrees for enterprises of the above-mentioned industries beginning Jan. 1 this year, while enterprises and individuals will free from income taxes for their anti-SARS donations, and so will front-line medical workers for the temporary subsidies they are offered. From April 1, real estate taxes and land taxes will be reduced or waived in three months according to the difficulties faced by the parties concerned. If the SARS crisis lasts until August, the adjustment of tax policies will result in a 900 million yuan (108 million US dollars)loss in tax revenue, said Wu Shengwen, director of the provincial local tax administration.

From People's Daily Online, China, 9 May 2003

World Bank To Help Reform Vietnam's Ailing Public Finance System

The World Bank said on Friday it has approved a $54 million soft loan for the reform of Vietnam's ailing and corruption-ridden public financial management system. The project supports the government's goal of "promoting good governance... through strengthening budget planning, execution, reporting and accountability," the bank said in a statement. Transparency and compliance with international standards were central to the reform of the current system, it said. "The government of Vietnam has made steady progress in maintaining effective mechanisms to prevent over spending and misappropriation of resources," said World Bank country director for Vietnam, Klaus Rohland. "However, there is an urgent need for further, accelerated reform to strengthen and integrate core treasury and budget management information system, to strengthen the link between budget management and the government's development goals, and to improve the management of public debts and fiscal risks." In addition to the bank's interest-free loan, Britain's Department for International Development will contribute $10 million in a grant towards the project. Many economists say the reform of Vietnam's public administration is crucial to tackling rampant corruption within government and state ranks. The World Bank has repeatedly warned against falling into the "crony capitalism" trap that has beset other Southeast Asian countries in which the accumulation of wealth is linked to personal contacts and corruption. The communist-ruled country begun 'doi moi' or its transition to a market economy in 1986.

From Hindustan Times, India, 23 May 2003

 

Figures Reveal €1.7bn Public Finance Deficit

Figures from the Department of Finance show the public finances to be over €1.7 billion in deficit, at the end of April. This compares to a deficit of nearly €113 million recorded at the same time last year. The Department of Finance has said it is still on target. The Budget forecast a deficit of €1.9 billion this year. Overall, tax receipts were down 2%, compared to Government forecasts; income tax receipts were down 4.4%, compared to the target level. However, stamp duty receipts were up 30%, reflecting a still-buoyant housing market and the increases in duty on bank cards.

From RTE Interactive, Ireland, 2 May 2003

Ruling Coalition Agrees on Public Finance Reform Plan

Prague - Representatives from the ruling coalition met on Sunday to hammer out a framework for public finance reform that will save the state some CZK 92 bn over the next three years, reports the daily Hospodarske noviny (HN). While the agreed upon reforms do not run as deep as the central bank and some economists may have hoped, they should result a public budget deficit of no more than 4.0 % of GDP by 2006, says HN. As a result of the agreement, the 2004 budget deficit should be less than this year's level of CZK 111 bn, according to Sobotka. Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats - CSSD) and junior coalition partners the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the Freedom Union were originally pushing for public finance reform that would lead to a budget deficit of 3.7 % of GDP in 2006, down from the current level of 6.3 % of GDP.

In addition to reigning in the budget deficit to less than 4 % by 2006, the agreement reached by coalition members raises the unemployment age for both men and women to 63. Moreover, the plan calls for entrepreneurs to pay higher pension insurance installments and a freeze on the number civil servants, even after EU accession. In addition, a 16-level salary system will be introduced for state sector employees, cutting the amount the state must pay out in wages. Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said earlier that the CR has some ten years in which to carry out public finance reform, but stressed that reforms must be launched this year. Trade unions have been cool towards proposed reforms. The Czech National Bank (CNB) has warned that in addition to stifling economic growth, failure to carry out public finance reform would hinder the CR's plans to eventually adopt the common European currency.

From Interfax, Czech Republic, 6 May 2003

U.K.'s FSA Aims to Improve Public's Finance Knowledge, FT Says

Britain's Financial Services Authority will campaign to broaden the public's knowledge of financial issues and products, the Financial Times reported, citing the U.K. regulator. "We shall be carrying out a consultation exercise in the summer to look at improving financial literacy," John Tiner, head of the FSA's consumer, investment and insurance directorate, told the newspaper. Last year, a report carried out for U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown concluded that Britons didn't know enough about financial products, the FT said.

From Financial Time , 27 May 2003

 

Governor Riley to Propose Tax Policy on Monday

Lawmakers in Alabama are focused on Governor Bob Riley's new tax plan. The Governor wanted to talk about the importance of ethics on Thursday and not taxes. But democratic representatives, briefed on his billion-dollar-plus tax plan, say it would increase property taxes on middle-class and upper-class homes. Riley's plan would help owners of homes worth less than $50,000 because they would pay no state property tax. Riley's plan would reduce property taxes from six and a-half mills to 3.5 mills. The Governor also plans to do away with the state's method of assessing property taxes. All property would be assessed at 100% of its appraised value. Governor Riley will announce his plan Monday night at 6:00 during a televised speech from his capitol office.

From WAFF, AL, 16 May 2003

Dynamics, Tax Policy Point to Stronger Economy

In the past three months, the U.S. economy has lost more than half a million jobs. The average worker who still has a job has seen the weekly paycheck grow only enough to pay higher prices for energy. State and local governments remain about $38 billion short of balancing their collective budgets, although tax increases, wage freezes and spending cuts have begun to close their constitutionally mandated gaps between revenue and spending. If I did not know better, I would say this is a prescription for the beginning of a recession. Yet very few economists, including myself, are willing to draw that conclusion. There are two reasons for our optimism: stimulative policies and inherent dynamics. The stimulative policies are easy to see. Most homeowners have repeatedly lowered their monthly mortgage payments by refinancing their mortgages. Furthermore, the lower cost of financing as a result of lower interest-rate targets is beginning to create profit growth for corporations even if no revenue growth is to be seen. On the budgetary side, federal spending has been growing almost 9 percent after adjustment for inflation as home security, armed conflict and new health and education initiatives have preserved strong spending growth. At the same time, tax cuts have increased the amount of each dollar earned that is kept by working households. To be sure, the timing of these tax initiatives has not been ideal.

The initial $130 billion annual reduction in tax liabilities did blunt the magnitude of the downturn, but an early rebate actually led to reduced tax stimulus as the recovery stalled. Now, arguments about the form of tax cuts are preventing the reality of reduced taxes from pushing withholding down. Most forecasts assumed that about $80 billion of further annual reductions in tax liability would be aiding households by the end of June. Although any tax reductions probably will be retroactive to the first of this year, their form will not be known until right before Congress adjourns. Moreover, most taxpayers wait until they see the reductions before they begin to spend the proceeds. Thus, stimulus from reduced tax liability may not begin surfacing until the spring of next year. Despite these timing difficulties, there will be economic stimulus from tax reductions, and it will be needed. Therefore, the monetary and budgetary policies are largely supportive of economic growth. This normally leads to some expansion of economic activity within the year that some positive policies are put into place. Even so, I would not be looking for strengthening growth in the second half of this year if the conditions were not right for such a rebound. Inventories that are too flush signal recessions. When inventories are lean, as they are now, only the smallest improvement in sales can lead to strong gains in production. Conversely, no inventory overhang is leading to order cancellations. (A little bit of retail excess developed after weather shrank Presidents Day sales, but that excess sales stock was quickly removed after the snows melted.)

There clearly is little need for a surge in housing activity. Pent-up demand has long since been met. However, the low monthly payments for homeownership are pulling households out of rental units. This will create some problems for apartments, but more resources are used to meet the housing needs of the home buyer. Housing activity will not decline until interest rates rise, and that requires significant economic strength elsewhere. Consumers clearly have little pent-up demand either. Credit has been available, and auto and furniture sales have been strong. Indeed, some economists believe that consumers have been so responsive to incentives that they have too much debt to sustain current levels of spending. If the size of debt was the most important factor, debt burdens would be a concern. However, lower monthly payments mean that the percentage of the monthly paycheck needed to pay those credit bills has been falling. A smaller percentage of monthly pay is needed to pay bills than last year or the year before. I have explained away forces that others have cited to argue for further economic weakness. So, where do I find these inherent dynamics that lead to economic strength? While corporations were waiting for revenue growth, the capabilities of computer software, office equipment and production facilities continued to improve.

Many IT officers know that they can lower costs and stay on budget at the same time. To be sure, there is too much production capacity. Also, weak performance has reduced the availability of capital for many companies. But even here, inherent dynamics are working. Falling interest costs are slowly lowering the finance charges needed to maintain prevailing activity. This is beginning to release resources for investment of cost savings. Much of this equipment pays for itself in cost containment in a year or less. Once the sales begin, then higher orders will add to credit opportunities. Slowly but surely, spending will improve, and so will the credit quality of corporate America. When capital spending is growing (unfilled orders began growing last month), some jobs will be generated. This will push demand for other goods. Only after growth becomes unsustainable, as it periodically does, will such spending support create any concern. In the meantime, this economy is looking for opportunities to improve, not to dump people. And even that suggests that strengthening, rather than weakening, growth is likely in the second half of this year. Donald Ratajczak is a regents professor of economics emeritus at Georgia State University.

From Atlanta Journal Constitution, GA, by Donald Ratajczak, 19 May 2003

Local Officials Blast Tax Swap Plan

A legislative proposal would swap half the sales tax revenue cities now receive for an equal amount of property tax to curb competition for big retailers. A state legislative proposal to swap half the sales tax revenue that cities now receive for an equal amount of property tax is supposed to curb competition between cities for big retailers and increase the amount of housing built. But the legislation by Assemblymen John Campbell, R-Irvine, and Darrell Steinberg, D- Sacramento, only is drawing opposition from Whittier-area cities. Local officials say they don't trust Sacramento to keep their part of the deal and also point to a study showing that many of them would have been losers if Assembly Bill 1221 had been in effect since 1994. "Anything that costs us money has an adverse effect on the community,' Santa Fe Springs City Manager Fred Latham said. Santa Fe Springs would have received more than $7 million less under the Steinberg proposal than the current tax system gave the city during the last eight years, according to a study by the Diamond Bar consultant HDL and Associates. During fiscal 2001-02 under AB 1221, Santa Fe Springs would have received about $740,000 less than it actually did. "We feel that in Santa Fe Springs we're not doing what they're complaining about,' Latham said. "We have a strong economic development program and we don't do it through bringing in big-box developments.'

The bill has a long way to go before becoming law. It has made it to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, but still must be passed by the full Assembly and Senate. Differences in how cities do following the first year depends on the rates of growth in sales and property tax. Campbell and Steinberg said they introduced the bill to restructure the fiscal relationship between local communities and the state. "This bill will not stop cities from wanting retail business; the key here is giving them the ability to determine their own destinies and establish a better balance,' Campbell said. "This bill allows for that balance by taking away some of the disincentives that are currently associated with building apartments or other commercial job centers.' A state expert on public finance said the current tax system can be a disincentive for housing. "Cities are choosing what projects get approved or encouraged by whether they will produce sales tax or not,' said Paul Lewis, program director of governance and public finance for the Public Policy Institute of California. "Retail development pays its own way for city treasuries a lot more handsomely than residential development,' Lewis said. "Your average house will claim more in services than it pays in property tax and other revenues.' In addition, the current system discourages development of manufacturing plants that produce no sales tax and encourages shopping centers, Lewis said.

But officials from some Whittier-area cities point to the HDL and Associates study showing they will lose. If AB 1221 had gone into effect during fiscal 1994-95, La Mirada would have lost a total of $4.7 million since then, Montebello, $7.3 million, and Whittier, about $2 million. La Habra Heights and Pico Rivera are the only winners. La Habra Heights would be better off by $11,667 and Pico Rivera would have received about $302,000 more. Whittier Councilman Owen Newcomer said that while he believes some kind of reform is needed, he doesn't want to see his city lose money. "I'm glad reform is being talked about, but I'm not sure we've got the solution. This probably isn't it,' he said. Lewis said the HDL and Associates numbers could be skewed because sales tax revenue went up more than normal during the late 1990s and the early 2000s. "Over a long run, property tax goes up faster than sales tax,' he said. But another key issue is trust, and city officials say they don't have it for the state Legislature. "We want a constitutional amendment to lock in that shifting of funds,' said Megan Taylor, director of communications for the League of California Cities. "We can't trust them.'

Taylor points to the vehicle license fee revenue in which the state cut the tax that was a key revenue source for cities. The state in 1998 agreed to pay the difference to cities, but now there are proposals to take the money away from cities. She also questions whether the proposal really will mean more housing. La Mirada City Manager Andrea Travis said her city has no room for more housing. Dennis Courtemarche, city manager for Pico Rivera, whose city would have been a winner, said he wants the state to leave cities alone. "Why is the state getting involved with land use?' Courtemarche asked. "I resent the state thinking it can do better. We don't need their help.' Courtemarche said the assumptions behind the bill are false, pointing to their 200-acre redevelopment site that was formerly the Northrop Corp. property. "We probably could have gotten a 200-acre commercial development,' he said. "We chose to balance it with commercial and industrial so the industrial development would provide good jobs for people in our community.' (Mike Sprague can be reached at (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3022, or by e-mail at mike.sprague@sgvn.com).

From Whittier Daily News, CA. by Mike Sprague, 19 May 2003

Winstead Continues Expansion of Public Finance Practice With Addition of Paul Martin and Group

Dallas and Houston - Winstead Sechrest & Minick P.C. announced today the addition of M. Paul Martin and five additional attorneys to its Public Finance Practice Group, continuing the expansion and strengthening of Winstead's reputation and position within the highly competitive public finance arena. Joining Winstead on June 2, 2003, two of the new attorneys will practice in the firm's Austin, Texas office, and the remaining four in a new office located in San Antonio, Texas. "We are delighted to welcome Paul and his group to Winstead. Their reputation and skill will add immediate value to our team of public finance attorneys, who represent some of the finest clients in the industry," said Todd Brewer, Chair of Winstead's Public Finance Practice Group. "The addition of these attorneys continues our commitment to expand and strengthen the depth of the firm's Public Finance Practice Group, and greatly enhances the level of finance counsel that Winstead can provide to clients in both the public and private sectors." The new public finance attorneys announced today include M. Paul Martin, David L. Dawson, Carey R. Troell, Julia Houston, Clayton Binford, and Blakely Fernandez, who were previously with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. These attorneys bring to the Winstead Public Finance Practice Group a combined total of more than 60 years of expertise in assisting clients with all areas of public finance.

Martin joins Winstead as a Shareholder with more than 35 years of experience in the national public finance arena, and has been involved with virtually every type of municipal financing. As bond counsel, he has represented nationally numerous state agencies, cities, counties, institutions of higher education, municipal utility districts and other special districts, school districts, hospital districts, and special purpose boards, including industrial development, health facilities, public facilities, and housing finance authorities. As underwriters' counsel he has represented every national investment-banking firm. In addition, Martin has been instrumental in the passage of key legislation in the public finance arena. Martin has been recognized by his peers, being elected as a Regular Fellow of the American College of Bond Counsel. Also joining Winstead as a Shareholder is David L. Dawson, who brings to Winstead over 10 years of experience in providing clients counsel in both bond and underwriting matters. Throughout his legal career, Dawson has represented numerous state and local governmental entities in single and multifamily housing, hotel, educational, and water transactions. Prior to joining Akin Gump in 1993, Dawson practiced law at Washington, D.C.-based, Dewey Ballantine, in the international trade department.

Before entering the legal profession, he served as a financial analyst in the corporate finance division of the First Boston Corporation in Dallas, Texas, and has been licensed as a certified public accountant. Joining Winstead as Associates are Troell, Houston, Binford, and Fernandez, all of whom have spent their careers practicing in various aspects of the public and private finance sectors. Troell has built his practice around serving as both bond and underwriter's counsel for various state and local governmental entities, as well as cities, counties, school districts, institutions of higher education, and municipal utility districts. Prior to joining Akin Gump, Troell served as Assistant Attorney General for the State of Texas, in the Public Finance Division, examining transcripts authorizing and approving bonds and similar obligations issued by state and local government entities. Houston's practice focuses on bond counsel and underwriters' counsel representation. Prior to beginning her private practice, she also served as Assistant Attorney General for the State of Texas, in the Public Finance Division, where she reviewed and approved traditional and conduit public financing transcripts.

Binford is developing his practice through his representation as bond counsel and underwriters' counsel, with a recent focus on multimodal variable rate debt and interest rate hedging agreements, as well as traditional forms of municipal finance. Fernandez has recently begun her legal career in the public finance arena. Winstead's expansion of its public finance practice began in 2001 with the addition of public policy experts Jim Lemond and Franklin Jones. It continued in 2002 with the addition of Linda L. D'Onofrio, a nationally recognized expert in public finance taxation. This latest addition of Paul Martin and his group represents Winstead's continued commitment to strengthen its national public finance practice and to provide expertise to clients involved in all aspects of public finance initiatives. Attorneys in the firm's Public Finance Practice Group represent state agencies, cities, counties, higher education facilities, corporations, hospital districts, housing finance corporations, school districts, sports authorities, professional sports teams, and water and utility districts, as well as underwriters, financial advisors, purchasers, and other public finance professionals. Winstead Sechrest & Minick P.C. is among the largest business law firms in Texas with more than 330 attorneys and 28 practice areas. Winstead has offices in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, The Woodlands, and San Antonio, Texas, and Washington D.C. and Mexico City. For detailed information about the firm, or its Public Finance Practice, visit http://www.winstead.com.

From PRNewswire, 19 May 2003

Commentary: From Good Tax Policy to Empty Gesture

When President Bush first pitched his ambitious tax cut in January, its centerpiece was a dramatic change in the way corporate profits would be taxed. Bush's radical idea: First require companies to pay tax on earnings, then let them distribute those profits to shareholders tax-free, either as dividends or as capital gains. Although complex and, at a cost of $400 billion over 10 years, expensive at a time of rising budget deficits, many economists agree that the idea would make for better tax policy. It would have taxed earnings once, in contrast to today's system, in which businesses and investors often pay taxes on the same earnings. It also would have reduced tax incentives for companies to borrow, rather than using equity. Just as important, coming after months of corporate accounting scandals, the Administration argued that its plan would discourage businesses from using gimmicks to slash their own taxes. Because shareholders would only receive a tax break if a company paid taxes on its earnings, backers of the plan argued that shareholder pressure would help trim the use of tax shelters. As the Bush plan moves through the legislative mill, however, the rationale for the dividend tax cut is disappearing in a flurry of political dealmaking. Senate Democrats and moderate Republicans insist that any measure be held to roughly $350 billion.

Since that doesn't leave enough to pay for the full dividend tax cut, Congress and the White House are struggling to cut a deal that would allow the Administration to claim victory on dividends. If that happens, the price will be worse, not better, tax policy. The latest alternative being pushed by the White House: Phase the dividend tax cut in over three years, and let it expire after five. The scheme was being debated in the Senate on May 14. Even if it fades there, it could reemerge as central to the final tax cut. Only by assuming the plan's expiration will the scheme fit the Senate's $350 billion tax framework. That, of course, would defeat the purpose of the cuts. "They have really gone astray on the dividend tax," says Robert V. Di Clemente, chief U.S. economist at Citigroup (C ). "It's going to be butchered." The White House and its Hill allies openly hint that they intend no such expiration to occur. If it doesn't, the scheme would cost as much as $375 billion over a decade, nearly as much as the original Bush plan.

But if the phaseout remains, business and investors would have to deal with a far more uncertain and complex regime for taxing dividends. That is exactly the opposite of what the Administration promised when it proposed ending the double taxation of dividends. Rather than make capital markets more efficient, it would make them less so. Rather than stimulating businesses to use stock sales to finance expansions -- and end their tax shelter games - it would leave CFOs scrambling to figure aftertax returns and looking for ways to game the system. Indeed, even many conservatives who support dividend tax cuts see the latest version as deeply flawed. American Enterprise Institute economist Kevin A. Hassett dismisses it as "patently absurd." Adds one business lobbyist who embraced the original plan under heavy pressure from the White House: "This is getting ugly. I'm holding my nose here." He's not the only one. Washington is in the midst of a bitterly partisan battle that is more about winning than about boosting the economy or creating a more effective tax system. Both corporations and individual taxpayers will come out as losers.

From BusinessWeek, 18 May 2003

Budget Proposal May Hinder Local Government Access, Say Critics

The governor's latest budget proposes dropping a mandate that local governments make public the agendas, locations and times of official meetings. The law obligates the state to pay for something that local governments should feel duty-bound to do on their own and produces no "significant benefit" to the state, according to Davis' proposal. Open-government advocates say the proposal diminishes the public's access to government. Some local governments said Monday they would post agendas anyway, regardless of state reimbursement. The proposal appears within a budget item that would save the state $32.9 million by reducing reimbursements to local governments. The governor's revised budget does not specify how much of that money pays for the agenda mandate the only state mandate within the item proposed for elimination instead of suspension. State Department of Finance officials could not be reached for comment. The money-saving proposal leaves the door open for corruption in local government, government watchdog groups say. "There were long fights to remove the secrecy in local government, and it's not necessary today in the era of South Gate, Colton, Carson, San Bernardino to make it easier to conduct the people's business behind closed doors," said California First Amendment Coalition President Richard McKee.

Since 1986, California open-government law has required agendas be posted three days before each public meeting. Advocates for open government say removing the requirement that local agencies tell the public what they will talk about before they talk about it cuts out the heart of open-meeting law. Cutting the requirement means that even if local governments post an agenda, they are not required to stick to it, said Thomas Newton, general counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association. Legal means of challenging a potential violation of the state's open-meeting law would also vanish, Newton said. According to McKee, the governor's proposed change would mean that: Upland might not have been forced last fall to take back an agreement that would have diverted $1.5 million into what has been called a potential "sweetheart deal" with Holliday Rock Co. for the construction of a freeway on-ramp. Ontario residents might not have learned about rifts within their city government until Councilwoman Debbie Acker was censured in January because the issue could have been kept off the agenda. Rancho Cucamonga City Council members might have been able to push through council appointments that had been decided before a council meeting in December without public input.

Added after Los Angeles City Council members voted themselves a large raise without notifying the public that the issue was up for discussion, the requirement that agendas be posted was repealed once before, in 1990, due to state budget problems. Heated protests from CFAC, CNPA and other groups helped reinstate the mandate. Some local officials say they will keep on posting agendas whether or not the state agrees to foot the bill. "We are interested, obviously, in making sure the public gets as much information as they can. It's good customer service," said Renee Bastian, clerk of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors. San Bernardino County asked for $111,330 for public meeting notices from the state for the 2001-02 fiscal year, Bastian said. She said the money pays for more than just copying costs and postage, including staff time for writing and researching agenda items and preparing for board meetings. CFAC legal counsel Terry Francke said a closer audit of the reimbursements local governments request would serve the state better than repealing the mandate entirely. Francke said he's confident some agencies are charging the state more than agendas actually cost. "It's money there to be gotten, until it runs out, and there are some local agencies that are very aggressive in going after it," Francke said.

From Redlands Daily Facts, CA, by Naomi Kresge, 21 May 2003

Greenspan to Promote Financial Literacy in Public Service Ad

Take it from Alan Greenspan: "There's a lot to learn about money." That's the slogan for a new Federal Reserve financial literacy campaign designed to help people manage their money. ''No matter who you are, making informed decisions about what to do with your money will help build a more stable financial future for you and your family,'' Greenspan says in a public-service television ad produced to promote the campaign. The ad provides the address of the Fed's new educational website and a toll-free telephone number, 800-411-5435, that consumers can call to get a free brochure with tips on setting up a monthly family budget and getting the best deal on a loan. Federal Reserve board member Edward Gramlich, who previewed the television spot for reporters last week said the new website features a wealth of consumer finance information aimed at helping people make the right decisions about such issues as savings and debt. ''Credit is more widely available, particularly to young people, seniors and low- and moderate-income populations,'' Gramlich said. "With such changes come new opportunities, but also risks, including the potential for fraud and abuse." To learn more, see the Federal Reserve's financial education website at: www.FederalReserveEducation.org

From Miami Herald, FL, by Martin Crutsinger, 26 May 2003

 

Afribank Participates in Privatization Share Purchase Loan Scheme Programme

Abuja - Afribank Nigeria Plc has commenced the distribution of Privatization Share Purchase Loan Scheme (PSPLS) forms to interested Nigerians. According to a statement by the bank's PM (Corporate Affairs), Mr. Lanre Alabi Afribank is among the banks and other agents appointed recently by the Bureau of Public Enterprises to serve as distributing agents for PSPLS forms. He disclosed that all branches of the bank located nationwide have begun witnessing increasing patronage from Nigerians interested in the scheme. Going further, he stated that Afribank has a rich tradition of facilitating effective implementation of people-oriented government programmes which has earned it the appellation of "peoples preferred bank." Privatization share purchase loan scheme is a programme of the federal government designed to encourage and enable low income earning Nigerian citizens purchase shares in public enterprises, being privatized under the federal government's on-going privatization exercise by offering credit to be used for the purchase of shares. With a network of over 140 offices and courteous staff coupled with flexible operations Afribank has become a preferred choice for interested participants of the scheme. To ensure efficacy in its operation, he posited that the bank has created special desks in its branches and extended hours of operations to facilitate efficient distribution of the forms. Afribank is currently in the forefront of the league of banks appointed by Federal Government, Parastatals, State and Local governments for the collection of taxes, levies and bills.

From AllAfrica.com, Africa, 27 May 2003

 

Good Governance Missing, Feel Most Corporate Leaders

New Delhi - Describing corporate governance as something that cannot be enforced through a set of rules, Tata Sons director Jamshed J Irani expressed a lack of faith in reports and recommendations published by various committees on the subject at Confederation of Indian Industry's (CII) annual conference. He also called upon CII to discourage companies from its membership who are known to have flouted basic principles of good governance. While speaking in favour of a non-executive chairman being different from the managing director or chief executive officer, Dr Irani disagreed with the proposed limit of three terms of three years each as recommended by the Naresh Chandra committee. He said this could be counter-productive as companies could end up losing the services of good directors, like the ones who have served on the boards of Tata companies for as long as 20 years. Naresh Chandra, former Indian Ambassador to USA and chairman of the committee on corporate governance, set up by Department of Company Affairs, shared his thoughts on the state of corporate governance in India, and essence of the recommendations of the committee. "Indian companies still have some ground to cover in terms of following corporate governance.

The committee had delved into topics ranging from defining the role of chartered accountants, quality of certified audited work, pinning down responsibility of financial information shared by company and many other issues concerning corporate governance," he said. CII chief economist Omkar Goswami was of the view that India ranks amongst the top three in corporate governance, a claim which Dr Irani did not agree with at all. The latter said, "We may have the right set of rules, but the reality is very different. We are no where near the top. While we endorse good governance practices, overlegislation will defeat the purpose. For example, quarterly financial disclosures often make managers take decisions to boost the quarterly performance which may not be good in the long-term." Columnist Sucheta Dalal came down heavily on the state of corporate governance in India and spoke about the issue of insider trading by board members of Indian companies. She also said that Indian corporations have short-changed investors in mergers and acquisitions and performing a vanishing act after primary market offers. She added that better disclosures were required in order to rekindle the primary market and investor interest.

From Financial Express, India, 29 April 2003

Union Leaders Demand Halt to Privatization

More than ten union leaders yesterday demanded that the government fulfills President Chen Shui-bian's promise to workers of state-owned enterprises made during his election campaign in 1999. Union leaders allege that the government failed to improve or reconsider what the unions consider the improper handling of state-owned enterprises' privatization. They also assert the government failed to keep its promise of having union representatives on the boards of these companies. Yesterday's press conference was organized by the "Association of State-Owned Enterprise Union" established on July 27th 1999, comprised of 21 unions from state-owned enterprises. The association's convener and also secretary-general of China Telecom Worker Union Chang Hsu-chung said that if the government continues to disregard their appeals, they may coordinate with the National Teachers' Association to launch a mass protest on Teacher's Day, September 28. "President Chen during his last presidential bid had promised to reconsider the nation's privatization policy. He also promised to suspend privatization and to ensure that state-owned firms would not be infringed by political forces or large private corporations," said Wang. "However, what we saw over the past three years is a deterioration of the process whereby the assets of government enterprises have gradually fallen into the hands of big private corporations," added Chang.

Chang said they will first petition the Executive Yuan this Thursday, May 1st, and give the government one more chance to review its privatization policy for state-run industries. Chang and other union leaders bombarded what they consider the improper manner in which private companies have been able to take control of government enterprises. Many union leaders criticized the Democratic Progressive Party for maintaining, and continuing, a flawed privatization process that had been their biggest grievance against the Kuomintang. Union leaders complained t some flaws or loopholes must be in the way privatization is carried out whereby private companies can take advantage of the process to win most of the tenders . The general public still only has a relatively slim chance to buy into the former state-owned enterprises. "We had strongly supported President Chen Shui-bian in the last presidential election, but find that the interest of workers appears not to be a main concern for the president. We would still like to give him a another chance to reconsider his labor policy," said Chang.

From eTaiwan News, Taiwan by Hung-fu Hsueh, 29 April 2003

Banks' Governance Ratings Soon To Be Made Public

Financial institutions may soon find their internal workings subject to the scrutiny of the banking public as part of the industry's move toward reforms in corporate governance and the elimination of fraud. The rating scheme, which will apply to banks' board of directors, is being pushed by the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD), which has an exclusive mandate from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to push corporate governance programs to the country's universal and commercial banks. Under the plan, the ICD will conduct a periodic review of banks' directors and their compliance with international standards of good governance, with particular emphasis on the elimination of corporate malfeasance. The rating results will then be disclosed to the public to allow them to make informed decisions about the way each bank makes important corporate decisions, especially with regard to their deposits. Speaking to reporters at yesterday's corporate governance roundtable at the Makati Shangri-La, ICD president and CEO Jesus P. Estanislao said he hopes to have the scheme in operation by the end of the year after a couple of false starts in 2001 and 2002. "The idea is to give knowledge to the public," he said, adding that peer pressure among banks will likely push everyone in line with corporate governance standards.

Estanislao noted that most bank failures were caused by flagrant violations of prudential guidelines since the processes that lead to these were shielded from public scrutiny. Thus, a public ranking of banks' corporate practices will allow depositors and borrowers to choose their banks based on their risk appetite. The ICD chief said banks will have no choice but comply with the scheme since the central bank has mandated that all banks undergo corporate governance programs in line with international best practices. "This is a BSP requirement," he said, adding that the reforms are required under the Phase II of the Bank of International Settlements' Basle Accord. In addition, Estanislao said banks that fail to subscribe to corporate governance codes would find themselves increasingly isolated from the rest of the financial and business communities that are becoming increasingly intolerant of corporate practices that are susceptible to malfeasance. "They may find that they won't be able to conduct correspondent banking with foreign firms if they don't have the scorecard," he warned. For his part, BSP Governor Rafael B. Buenaventura expressed support for the scheme but hinted at reservations at an accelerated implementation timeframe. "It might take some time, because we have to make sure that everyone is ready," he said. Buenaventura said the local banking system spans a whole range of firms from the very large and sophisticated to the smaller operations that may be unfamiliar with international corporate governance standards. "Eventually, we'll get there but we have to make sure that everyone knows how to use [the manual] first," he said in an interview.

From Manila Times, Philippines, by Daxim L. Lucas, 8 May 2003

Narita Privatization Plan Ready to Take Off Despite Cloudy Future

Preparations are moving forward to privatize the operation of the Narita Airport in Chiba Prefecture, Japan's gateway to the world used by about 30 million people annually, but plans for new airport businesses remain vague pending resolution of questions surrounding the airport's provisional second runway. A bill to privatize the public corporation operating the airport has been submitted to the current Diet session. It provides for a new, wholly government-funded corporation, Narita International Airport Co., to take over operation of the airport from the New Tokyo International Airport Authority in April next year. The airport, now officially called New Tokyo International Airport, will be renamed Narita International Airport for the city where it is located. After April 1, 2007, it will be possible for the corporation's stock to be listed on the market. A reduction in landing fees is expected to be one of the favorable effects of privatization. After privatization plans were announced in autumn 2001, the airport authority was deluged with inquiries from brokerage companies and research institutes, foreign and domestic, that hoped to land a contract for advising the company on going public. The airport authority agreed on advisory contracts with two firms in February, but it was courted by as many as 20 companies. "We never thought we'd enjoy so much attention," said Masaki Saita, head of the airport authority's general planning and research office.

After opening in 1978, Narita Airport catered to domestic and international flights with one 4,000-meter runway. But the airport's landing and takeoff capacity was increased by 50 percent in April last year with the opening of a new 2,180-meter runway running parallel to the main strip. The privatization also will enable the new corporation to directly run duty-free shops or hotels, areas of business closed to it as a public company to ensure opportunities for private sector businesses. An airport user is said to spend 1,500 yen on average shopping or dining. A senior airport authority official said the figure is widely expected to increase, approaching the 5,000 yen spent by the average airport user at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. In fiscal 2001, the airport's nonaviation revenues from tenants and other services reached 42 billion yen, about 30 percent of its total income. It is believed that airport authority executives hope to boost the ratio to about 50 percent by operating stores and other businesses, the norm for international airports in Europe. More than 10 billion yen in annual airport-related security costs can be cut back to improve financial conditions. Although basic security and checkpoint inspections are essential to preempt attacks by terrorists and radical organizations opposing airport-related projects, the authority employee said it is hoped the figure can be halved. "Ten billion yen is enough to drive a private company into bankruptcy," the authority employee said.

Increasing financial success by boosting nonaviation service revenues and cost reductions will lead to the reduction of landing fees. "We want to cut back the landing fees as soon as possible," said New Tokyo International Airport Authority President Masahiko Kurono, referring to international condemnation of the landing fee, which is about three times that charged at Inchon International Airport in South Korea. It costs about 950,000 yen, for example, for an international-route jumbo jet to land at Narita Airport. A senior executive of a Japanese airline said reductions in the world's most expensive landing fees are widely anticipated. However, such a rosy picture is not a sure thing. Economic aftereffects of the Iraqi war and SARS scare are among adverse conditions facing airport business. The airport is expected to see receipts decrease by about 1.5 billion yen, or about 10 percent, from initially projected monthly income in April due to the reduction in the number of passengers as well as flights. The airport authority has been trying to prevent any negative impact on the privatization plan through a variety of measures, including the reduction in board members salaries during the April-June period. What worries senior managers in the airport authority more are the issues surrounding the second runway, which is shorter than the originally planned 2,500 meters.

In the face of fierce opposition from local farmers and their backers to the plan to construct a second runway, the airport authority was forced to relocate the runway to the north. The provisional runway, although it can accommodate medium-sized jets, is too short for use by jumbo jets. Because of the limited number of landings and takeoffs on the runway, some observers believe the runway will reach its capacity in one or two years. In addition, there are persistent security fears partly because of the many trees remaining close to the runway on the property of local farmers. The minimal buffer of cleared land around the runways is thought to have been a contributing factor in an incident in which a jet overran the landing strip in January in strong winds. There is little chance the 37-year rift between the government and local farmers will be solved to clear the way for the airport to buy the remaining 4.5 hectares of land necessary to extend the runway. There are increasing calls to extend the provisional runway north, where there are no obstructions, by spending another 30 billion yen to 35 billion yen. With construction expected to take three years, it is hoped the matter can be decided by the end of the year so the runway can be completed by the time the new corporation goes public in fiscal 2007. The issue of the second runway was once settled by way of introducing a "provisional measure," but is likely to invite further heated discussion.

From Daily Yomiuri, Japan, by Yoshifumi Sugita and Shogo Hasemi Yomiuri Shimbun, 12 May 2003

Needed Anti-privatization Stance Is Wrong; We Have No Choice

Sen. Carmen Fernandez is determined to put an end to privatization efforts in the Department of Education because she feels the law that requires privatizing public school maintenance and cafeteria services is unfair. "If we are going to mandate one department to privatize, then we should mandate them all, or it's not fair," Fernandez said last week. But her rationale makes little or no sense, panders to a very small group of current government employees and, quite frankly, is wrong. After all, some privatization of those services already exists in a few schools. Furthermore, Guam Memorial Hospital is planning to privatize cafeteria and maintenance services, and the Department of Corrections also intends to outsource food services. And because of the financial crisis facing the government of Guam, we have no choice but to privatize some GovGuam services. There simply is no other alternative - outsourcing is a needed and vital component of cutting costs so that the government can live within its means. Gov. Felix Camacho, in his State of the Island address, made it perfectly clear that privatization is necessary.

He singled out food service within the education department, saying that our schools have to get out of the restaurant business and focus on educating our children. And Speaker Ben Pangelinan said that if government efficiencies can be achieved by privatization, that it should be considered. Private companies have proven time and time again that they can perform the same services better, faster and less expensively than can the government. Outsourcing not only reduces the cost of government, but the size as well, while simultaneously adding jobs to the long-suffering private sector, which increases revenue to government coffers rather than taking it away. If Fernandez gets her way, overdue government reorganization and streamlining will again be set back, and for sake of protecting what amounts to a select group of our community. Our elected officials must put aside old political habits, where the primary concern was to protect and coddle small, but very vocal, blocks of GovGuam voters. They need to have the courage and political will to think of the big picture and act for the greatest good of the community as a whole.

From Agana Pacific Daily News, GU, 18 May 2003

Government To Re-Open Privatization Process Of KESC

Islamabad - Minister for Privatization and Investment, Dr. Hafeez Shaikh said Friday, the government was considering ways and means to re-open the privatization process of Karachi Electricity Supply Company (KESC). The Minister was talking to a delegation of Asian Development Bank, comprising ADB Country Director, Marshuk Ali Shah and Sune Stroen, ADB's Head Energy Operation in South Asia, who called on him here. Dr. Hafeez Shaikh briefed the delegation about the country's privatization programme with particular reference to the privatization of KESC. The Minister informed the delegation that the government was considering various means to re-open the privatization of KESC and in this respect notable personalities from the private sector in Karachi were also being consulted. Hafeez said, the privatization of public sector entities was in the best interest of country and nation as it would not only help in saving the country's huge public resources, but will also ensure the provision of better services for people. He said, through the privatization of state-owned entities, the country's precious resource, currently being utilized for financing the public sector losses, would be diverted towards the poverty alleviation projects. On this occasion, various aspects of ADB's participation in the privatization of KESC were also discussed.

From Pakistan News Service, Pakistan, 17 May 2003

Privatization Aims To Provide Quality Service In Public Sector

Islamabad - The fundamental aim of privatization is to provide good quality service in public sector, said Federal Minister for Privatization and Investment, Dr. Abdul Hafiz Sheikh. In an interview to PTV he said, it was also being worked out as to how the monopoly of larger companies should be tackled to make way for other competitors. The Minister said it was also observed that the big enterprises were difficult to privatize for which large amount of capital was required. The risk factor, he added, made the investors reluctant to participate in the process of privatization of big institutions. Over the years the heads of the big institutions had Resisted privatization a trend which he said, needed to be changed. The Minister said the failures of any company should not be attributed to privatization, adding, the company could be further improved after privatization.

He said KSE had not been able to collect even 50 percent of Its revenues, adding, with the help of new management techniques the Revenue collection could rise up by another 25 percent. Commenting over WAPDA's privatization, the minister said it had been distributed into different regional entities like Faisalabad and Peshawar. The privatization process of Faisalabad electricity distribution was carried out after eight parties showed their interest in its privatization, he said. Hafiz Sheikh termed the privatization process as "not so simple a challenge." Talking about PSO's privatization the Minister said the government was due to announce a final bidding date sometime during the next week. If everything goes well then within nine weeks the bidding process for PSO will start, which he added, would be a very important development in energy sector. The government, he said, wanted to take a fresh look at the privatization of Oil and Gas sector. "We also want to use stock market for selling shares of some of the companies including Oil and Gas," he concluded.

From Pakistan News Service, Pakistan, 21 May 2003

IBA Leadership Speaks Of Successes Before Privatization

PricewaterhouseCoopers has completed its audit of the International Bank of Azerbaijan. Baku Rauf Rzayev, first deputy chairman of the board of directors of the International Bank of Azerbaijan, announced this at today's press conference. The auditing results were delayed because it encompassed not only the activity of the bank itself, but all of its subsidiaries, said Rzayev. According to preliminary reports from IBA's internal audit, its capital assets grew from 85 billion AZM to 100 billion AZM ($20 million). The bank's total assets have exceeded $500 million. Rzayev also provided information on the bank's development prospects, particularly with the upcoming privatization of IBA. It was noted that the corresponding memorandum must be signed by the Government of Azerbaijan and EBRD on sale of 20% shares of IBA. This issue has been discussed among representatives of the IBA and EBRD this week. The cost of the deal will be determined by the end of August of this year, yet remains unknown because the re-assessment of the babk is due. It's known that IBA was priced at $30 billion based upon the results of a previous assessment made (three years ago) by the RPMG Company. Information for this report provided by Turan.

From Baku Today, Azerbaijan, 26 May 2003

 

Unakitan: Interest In Promotion Of Privatization Is More Than Expected

London - Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan said on Wednesday that interest shown by investors in Roadshow in London about Turkey's privatization program was beyond the estimations. Within the scope of program held by famous finance institution Citygroup in London, Unakitan held contacts with foreign investors who are interested in privatization of Tupras, Petkim, National Lottery and State Monopoly. Unakitan recalled that efforts were underway to include National Lottery within the scope of privatization. He said they were in an effort to determine a strategy in this respect. Unakitan said giant companies of the world were closely interested in privatization of Tupras, stating that BP and Shell were among those companies. Meanwhile, officials in delegation of Unakitan told A.A correspondent that talks took place today particularly with the giant companies of tobacco. Officials said Imperial Tobacco, Altadis, BAT, JTI, Philip Morris and Gallahar were among those companies. They said efforts of privatization were underway in Morocco and Italy in State Monopoly sector. Officials said there was great interest both in alcohol and tobacco, stating that local and foreign ventures would please them. Unakitan is expected to leave for Turkey on Thursday evening.

From Turkish Press, Turkey, 30 April 2003

Rabbitte Backs Role for Private Firms Running Public Services

The Labour Party must be more flexible about accepting a greater role for private firms in delivering public services, the party's leader, Mr. Pat Rabbitte, has declared. Indicating a significant change in the party's attitude, he said the public were more interested about the quality of services, rather than who provided them. In his first conference address as party leader, Mr. Rabbitte told 1,000 delegates in Killarney that Labour had not always acknowledged the increase in the number of middle-class voters. "Modern citizens as taxpayers are often more conscious of themselves as consumers and customers than they are preoccupied with the ownership structures of any given enterprise," he said. "As a result of wider participation in education, there are now hundreds of thousands of people who enjoy, or aspire to, middle-class lifestyles," he declared. "That doesn't mean that they are lost to the Labour Party unless we act and talk as if they were. We have to adapt to the new Ireland that we ourselves helped to create," he went on. Voters wanted fair health insurance from the Voluntary Health Insurance and BUPA, but, he told The Irish Times, they were not concerned about whether the VHI was "run publicly, or privately".

In a part of his speech deleted because of lack of time, Mr. Rabbitte made it clear that teachers, CIÉ workers and health workers must all embrace changes. "Labour cannot make transport policy only for transport workers, although their input is vital. We cannot make education policy only for teachers, though their input is essential. "We cannot make health policy for doctors, although to exclude their contribution would be unthinkable," he had written. Yesterday, however, he said Labour's future attitude would be decided on a case-by-case basis, citing the sell-off by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats of Telecom Éireann. The sale to the Valentia consortium, which includes Tony O'Reilly, had not improved competition and it had left the Government with no levers to speed up the establishment of an Internet broadband network. Meanwhile, Mr. Rabbitte said Labour had "won the argument" with the Government over the need "to borrow prudently" to invest in badly-needed infrastructure.

Currently, he said, the Government was spending much of its day-to-day revenues on capital projects, which had helped to deprive health, education and other areas of funding. Capital borrowing would free up money for hospitals, schools and Community Employment Schemes, though he strongly emphasised that he did not favour "profligate public spending". Meanwhile, it emerged that the party's 60-year-old Dublin North TD, Mr. Sean Ryan, will almost certainly not seek re-election if the Dáil runs for all, or most, of its full term. "If there was an election shortly then, in all probability, I would run, but if it goes for the full term then, in all probability, I may not," he told The Irish Times yesterday. A decision to go early would be a blow for the party, particularly since the Cork East TD, Mr. Joe Sherlock, is also expected to stand down. However, former leader Mr. Ruairí Quinn intends to stand again. Bidding farewell to delegates yesterday, Mr. Rabbitte said it had been the best conference Labour has had in years.

From Irish Times, Ireland, by Ian Haberfield and Sue Hewitt, 12 May 2003

Water Privatization Act Under Preparation

Budapest - A new law to allow the privatization of companies in the water and wastewater sector is being prepared, the draft of which is expected to go before parliament in the first half of 2004. The law will specify privatization conditions in order to meet EU directives, while creating the possibility for businesses to be run profitably, Janos Remai, advisor responsible for coordinating the preparation process at the National Water Directorate, told Budapest Business Journal. Water fees are currently determined by the owner of water companies, mostly municipalities that are interested in keeping the price as low as possible. This also prevents private operators from building their costs into water fees. Executives of both French-based Veolia Water and German-owned RWE Aqua, both minority shareholders with management rights in the Budapest Water Works, see their plans of expansion as dependent on the regulation process. Hungarian laws currently prevent private companies from gaining a majority stake in water utility firms, BBJ notes.

Regulations also treat the municipality and the state-owned firms differently. The purpose of the limitation was to prevent basic infrastructure from getting out of public control. The new law will specify what elements of the system can be sold, and will likely support the foundation of operating concessions. There are more than 400 water or wastewater service providers in Hungary, most of them active in just one settlement. About 80% of the market is covered by the 25 largest firms. To meet the EU quality requirements, service providers will need to invest more, which can lead to a consolidation process - Remai added. Private investors control only about 20% of the Hungarian market, with the rest owned by local municipalities and the state. This ratio is the other way around in the Czech Republic, according to BBJ.

From Interfax, Hungary, 14 May 2003

 

State Will Name Observer to Oversee Bezeq Privatization

The Prime Minister's Bureau and GSS threatened to block Bezeq's privatization, had the Finance and Economics Committee accepted Bezeq's proposal to restrict the observer's authority. Threats by the Prime Minister's Bureau and General Security Services (GSS) today forced the joint Knesset Finance and Economics Committee to amend the Telecommunications Law (5742 - 1982) to appoint an observer to Bezeq (TASE:BZEQ). The observer will have unlimited authority to veto in advance any decision by the board of directors or its committees. The Prime Minister's Bureau and GSS chief threatened to block Bezeq's privatization had the Knesset committee accepted Bezeq's proposal to restrict the state observer's authority to security matters raised in board and committee meetings. Government Companies Authority director Eyal Gabbai advised the Knesset committee this morning to reject Bezeq's position on the amendment, which is a rider to the economic plan that the committee is preparing for its second and third Knesset readings.

The GSS insisted on a law appointing a state observer to Bezeq. The observer will block any decision that might endanger essential state interests not defined by law. The Knesset committee unanimously approved the government's proposal to grant the observer unlimited authority. Committee chairman MK Shalom Simhon (Labor) abstained, saying he would oppose the decision because, "The GSS has overpowered the system in an extraordinary manner. The dark days are over and the observer's authority should be limited." Bezeq claims that the appointment of an observer constitutes a fundamental restriction on the company that will hurt the chances of its privatization, because the observer will have full access the documents and material given to every director about the company and its subsidiaries, thereby fully exposing Bezeq.

In addition, the observer will be present at every meeting of the board and its committees. Under the law, the observer can delay any decision at his discretion, submitting any disagreement to the decision of the ministers of finance and communications. Bezeq claims that this sweeping authority is disproportionate. Bezeq proposed that the observer be invited only to meetings discussing security-related issues, and receive all the pertinent documents for Bezeq only, but not for its subsidiaries. Simhon postponed the vote to the afternoon, and requested the Prime Minister's Bureau and GSS's position in writing. Simhon held the vote only after receiving the material. MK Eitan Cabel (Labor-Meimad), who had supported Bezeq, switched his vote, making it unanimous.

From Globes Online, Israel, by Zvi Lavi, 19 May 2003

Finance Minister Underlines Priority of Economic Privatization

Tehran - Minister of Economy and Financial Affairs Tahmasb Mazaheri declared here on Sunday that privatization of economy is among the major national economic plans. Speaking at the ceremony held for introduction of the new managing director of the Privatization Organization, Ahmad Mir-Motahari, he said that given the growing role of the private sector in the national economy, it is responsible for organizing and coordinating the economic affairs and assessing the proposals submitted by the government and Majlis, which goes beyond selling the shares of state companies. Lauding the efforts of the former managing director of the Privatization Organization Mehdi Ali-Akbar, the minister noted that discipline in the sale of state companies shares, transparency in the volume of exchanges taking place in the past years either as direct sale via stock market or transfer of shares to other institutions such as the Social Security Organization mark the health and sincerity of the organization.

He announced that rls 3,130 billion worth of shares were sold in the past Iranian year (1381), which shows a 15 percent boost over that of the 1380, which stood at rls 200 million. Mazaheri hoped that once Mir-Motahari takes office, further privatization and a transparent economy will be materialized. "Despite serious measures taken by states organizations in telecommunication, bank, insurance and social security, a coordinated step is required to privatize the national economy. Meanwhile, the Privatization Organization is responsible to provide the legal and executive grounds to the effect," he added. In the ceremony, Ali-Akbar, pointing to the transparent performance of the organization and the stock market, said that in the past five years, a tax of rls 640 billion has been paid to the Tax Organization from the revenues obtained. Referring to the objections made to privatization in the past, he noted that a proper atmosphere has now been provided to materialize it nationwide. Declaring the number of share-holding laborers at 370,000, he said that 52,000 of them were rendered share-holders last Iranian year (ended March 20).

From IRNA, Iran, 25 May 2003

 

New Interest Shown in Privatization

A decade after Massachusetts passed the strictest-in-the-nation antiprivatization statute, support for the law appears to be slipping in the Legislature, possibly laying the groundwork for privately-run state highway maintenance and UMass dining halls, shifting thousands of jobs to the private sector. House leaders have recommended that the state's transportation agencies and the University of Massachusetts system be freed of all outsourcing limitations for one year, as a test. If it goes well, it could be expanded to other agencies. With the state facing its bleakest fiscal situation since the early 1990s, Romney administration officials - who asked for a more widespread test than the House has proposed - say privatization offers a $10 million savings just at UMass and the state Transportation Department. ''It's a real opportunity to save money, to show that this can work,'' said Charles Chieppo, Romney's policy director in the Executive Office for Administration and Finance, who would like to see the law eliminated. ''For the first time, there's some official movement on it. It's a good sign.'' But the state's public employee unions are working feverishly to keep the 1993 law intact, arguing that rolling back the provisions of the so-called ''Pacheco Law'' would result in slashed salaries for thousands of workers and not save taxpayers a significant sum.

Privatization is when the state hires a private company to perform a task it previously handled itself. Companies can often do the job more cheaply by paying lower salaries, offering fewer benefits, and/or doing the work more efficiently. A budget amendment that would undo the House Ways and Means Committee recommendation will be debated this week, possibly as soon as today, and labor unions have tended to hold sway in the Democratic-controlled Legislature. Republican House members have offered an amendment that would eliminate the Pacheco Law entirely. Senate leaders have pronounced themselves open to serious changes in the law, but the chamber is also home to Senator Marc R. Pacheco, for whom the bill is named. Pacheco, the law's fiercest protector, said he's willing to discuss minor changes, but believes meaningful protections must remain to keep private firms from slashing wages and benefits and to ensure that taxpayers get their money's worth. ''If you don't have any standards, obviously you can cut costs by cutting wages and benefits,'' said Pacheco, a Taunton Democrat. ''You don't need a test run for that.''

The Legislature passed the Pacheco Law over then-governor William F. Weld's veto, in large part in reaction to a frenzy of privatization in the early 1990s. The law requires agencies seeking to contract out a service to prove not only that the move would save money, but that it would save money even if state employees were to work in a hypothetical ''most cost-efficient manner.'' Would-be bidders must include the cost of oversight, such as inspections and audits, pushing up the price for contractors that wish to take over work performed by public employees. Firms cannot win business if they'll pay less than the lowest amount the state pays its employees for similar services, and the state auditor has final power to approve or reject privatization bids. The Pacheco Law's backers argue that it has prevented private bidders from conducting a ''race to the bottom'' to win business, and has kept the administration from handing out business to political friends. But detractors say the bar for approval is so high that few contractors even try; in the past 10 years, only eight proposals have been put forward, compared with 36 privatization contracts doled out by the state over the previous three years. House Ways and Means chairman John H. Rogers said it's time to cut through the rhetoric on both sides and figure out whether the state can save significantly through privatization.

His committee recommended giving UMass and transportation officials the power to sign two-year privatization contracts anytime during fiscal 2004, which begins July 1. ''There's really no conclusive evidence that privatization of government services either benefits or harms state government,'' said Rogers, a Norwood Democrat. ''We want to find out, because if we can save money, and pass on the savings to human services, that's going to be good for the Commonwealth.'' But union officials say that even a limited experiment with looser standards could be devastating to taxpayers and state workers. Without the Pacheco Law's restrictions, a private bidder could slash salaries to win a bid and then allow costs to escalate to line his own pockets, said Peter Wright, a spokesman for Council 93 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. ''You have a lot of hard-working people who go to work every day at UMass that could lose their jobs here, or be forced to work for less,'' said Wright, whose union includes about 1,500 UMass food service, clerical, and maintenance workers. ''The concern I have is as much for the members [of the union] as for the taxpayers. All the law really does is require a cost analysis.'' )Rick Klein can be reached at rklein@globe.com).

From Boston Globe, MA, by Rick Klein, 6 May 2003

Greenspan Speech on Corporate Governance

Washington - Following is the full text of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's "Corporate Governance" speech released in Washington Thursday and delivered via satellite before the 2003 Conference on Bank Structure and Competition in Chicago: "Corporate governance, the subject of our conference, has evolved over the past century to more effectively promote the allocation of the nation's savings to its most productive uses. And, generally speaking, the resulting structure of business incentives, reporting, and accountability has served us well. We could not have achieved our current level of national productivity if corporate governance had been deeply flawed. Yet, our most recent experiences with corporate malfeasance suggest that governance has strayed from the way we think it is supposed to work. By law, shareholders own our corporations, and corporate managers ideally should be working on behalf of shareholders to allocate business resources to their optimum use. But as our economy has grown and our business units have become ever larger, de facto shareholder control has diminished: Ownership has become more dispersed, and few shareholders have sufficient stakes to individually influence the choice of boards of directors or chief executive officers.

The vast majority of corporate share ownership is for investment, not for operating control of a company. Thus, corporate officers, especially chief executive officers, have increasingly shouldered the responsibility for guiding businesses in what one hopes they perceive to be the best interests of shareholders. Not all CEOs have appropriately discharged their responsibilities and lived up to the trust placed in them, as the events that led to the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act demonstrated. In too many instances, some CEOs, under pressure to meet elevated short-term expectations for earnings, employed accounting devices for the sole purpose of obscuring adverse results. A change in behavior, however, may already be in train. The sharp decline in stock and bond prices after the collapse of Enron and WorldCom has chastened many of those responsible for questionable business practices. Corporate reputation is emerging out of the ashes of the debacle as a significant economic value. I hope that we will return to the earlier practices of firms competing for the reputation of having the most conservative and transparent set of books. It is hard to overstate the importance of reputation in a market economy.

To be sure, a market economy requires a structure of formal rules--a law of contracts, bankruptcy statutes, a code of shareholder rights - to name but a few. But rules cannot substitute for character. In virtually all transactions, whether with customers or with colleagues, we rely on the word of those with whom we do business. If we could not do so, goods and services could not be exchanged efficiently. Even when followed to the letter, rules guide only a small number of the day-to-day decisions required of corporate management. The rest are governed by whatever personal code of values corporate managers bring to the table. Market transactions are inhibited if counterparties cannot rely on the accuracy of information. The ability to trust the word of a stranger still is an integral part of any sophisticated economy. A reputation for honest dealings within a corporation is critical for effective corporate governance. Even more important is the reputation of the corporation itself as seen through the eyes of outsiders. It is an exceptionally important market value that in principle is capitalized on a balance sheet as goodwill. Reputation and trust were particularly valued assets in freewheeling nineteenth-century America. Throughout much of that century, laissez-faire reigned and caveat emptor was the prevailing prescription for guarding against the wide-open trading practices of those years.

A reputation for honest dealings was thus a particularly valued asset. Even those inclined to be less than scrupulous in their private dealings were forced to adhere to a more ethical standard in their market transactions, or they risked being driven out of business. To be sure, the history of business is strewn with Fisks, Goulds, and numerous others treading on, or over, the edge of legality. But they were a distinct minority. If the situation had been otherwise, the United States at the end of the nineteenth century would never have been poised to displace Great Britain as the world's leading economy. Reputation was especially important to early U.S. bankers. It is not by chance that in the nineteenth century many bankers could effectively issue uncollateralized currency. They worked hard to develop and maintain a reputation that their word was their bond. For these institutions to succeed and prosper, people had to trust their promise of redemption in specie. The notion that "wildcat banking" was rampant before the Civil War is an exaggeration. Certainly, crooks existed in banking as in every business. Some banks that issued currency made redemption inconvenient, if not impossible. But they were fly-by-night operators and rarely endured beyond the first swindle.

From Forbes, 8 May 2003

US Airways May Have Rejected Contracts and Leases with Pittsburgh International Airport, But the Airport's Bills Still Have To Be Paid

The question is, who will pay them? In order to repay the bondholders who put up more than $1 billion for the award-winning facility, the Allegheny County Airport Authority may have to ask the state to float bonds, cut costs dramatically or even put the airport up for sale. The state could float enough bonds to pay off the remaining $673 million debt at Pittsburgh International, as well as debt at Philadelphia International Airport. Pittsburgh could raise parking and rental car fees and close terminal space to cut costs. Or, if all else fails, Pittsburgh could sell its airport to a private buyer. "It would be unprecedented in recent history or on a scale this large," Kurt Forsgren, a director of Standard & Poor's in San Francisco, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review for Sunday's edition. The airport floated the bonds to pay for a new passenger terminal and to make other airport improvements in the 1990s at the request of US Airways. But in declining to renew contracts with the airport, the airline cited high costs for operating in Pittsburgh. "For US Airways to say this is a high-cost facility is disingenuous when the airport (cost structure) is what it is because US Airways asked for this (airport) years ago," Forsgren said.

Pittsburgh's operating costs, including annual debt payments, were $7.57 a passenger last year, according to the Federal Aviation Administration and the Airports Council International-North America. The cost is higher than US Airways' two bigger hubs. Philadelphia International is $5.69 a passenger and Charlotte-Douglas International in North Carolina is $3.51."Airlines are notoriously cheap, and any time airports want to pass costs onto the airlines, they yell and scream," said Jim Peters, an FAA spokesman. In the meantime, local and state officials are expected to meet with US Airways to start negotiating new contracts. US Airways controls over 80 percent of Pittsburgh International's passenger traffic and employees almost 9,000 workers in the region _ making it the largest private employer in the area, according to local officials. The airline is demanding $155 million in airport improvements or it might not base its MidAtlantic Airways regional jet subsidiary at Pittsburgh.

Should talks collapse before the Jan. 4 deadline arrives, Pittsburgh International would likely default on its loans and send the airport authority's debt rating into junk status. "There have been no defaults on this magnitude at an airport," Forsgren said. "It would certainly send a shock wave through the whole airport system." County Chief Executive Jim Roddey says he prefers "a local solution." However, the airport already has refinanced several bonds in the 1990s."They are restricted under federal regulation from refinancing those tax-exempt bonds again," said Bob Aumer, senior vice president in charge of public finance at Parker Hunter.A more likely option is for the state to share the cost burden, Aumer said. "There are a number of options on the table. The governor will then look at them and form a solution that's best for Pennsylvania," said Kate Philips, a spokeswoman for Gov. Ed Rendell, Pittsburgh International Airport: http://www.pitairport.com

From NEPA News, PA, 12 May 2003

 

A New Challenge - The Privatization of Foreign Policy

(This interview with Henry Kissinger was conducted by Waltraud Kaserer, foreign editor of Welt am Sonntag. It appeared May 4.) QUESTION: The great German philosopher Jurgen Habermas recently wrote that due to its preemptive strike against Iraq the United States lost its normative authority in the world. Do you agree? Henry Kissinger: I greatly respect Jurgen Habermas. But his criticism takes no account of the dominant fact of our period: the change from the international system created (in 1648) by the Treaty of Westphalia to a new system in process of gestation. The Westphalian principles based order on the sovereignty of states and defined aggression as the crossing of international borders by organized units. But September 11 introduced a new challenge posed by the privatization of foreign policy in the hands of nongovernment groups tacitly or directly supported by traditional states. And proliferation of weapons of mass destruction brings about a threat of global devastation. Q: But what is the link with Iraq? Kissinger: In the thinking of those who were responsible for the decision, the problem of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction merged with the issue of terrorism in the region from which the September 11 attacks originated. Intellectually, I agree with that. Those are both problems that need in some respect a preemptive solution in the sense that one cannot wait for the act of aggression having actually taken place.

Q: You mean a preemptive strike? Kissinger: Only in the sense that the threat must be dealt with before it as been implemented. But I do not agree that in the long run one nation can alone define the nature of the threat and the content of preemption. Therefore, there should be discussion between America and especially our allies as well as other countries under what principles preemption is justified and plausible. In the case of Iraq, it was an emergency situation that had a long history and required a more short-term answer. Therefore, I supported the Bush administration. I would not support the principle as a general rule, without additional efforts to establish it on an international basis. Q: Can peace be brought along by war? Kissinger: That depends on what you mean by peace. The idea to have peace without tension is a philosophical construction that has never existed in history. Have there been periods of peace that were produced by wars? For 100 years after the Napoleonic, there were no major wars. Can war settle all problems? Certainly not. Should war be the first resort? No. But it wasn't in the case of Iraq, either. Can war never settle anything? Germany knows from its own history that wars for better or worse have brought many changes. Q: Do you think it was right that the United States started war against Iraq without a UN mandate? Kissinger: I fundamentally supported the Bush administration on the war against Iraq. Most Cold War crises-for example, over Berlin-were handled without a UN mandate. Only two of the wars since the end of World War II had a Security Council mandate, and one of these resulted in the accident of a Soviet boycott of the Security Council.

Q: For the points you stated there is not much evidence in Iraq. No weapons of mass destruction have been found so far, and the link with al-Qaida is very weak. Kissinger: I have talked to intelligence people from the United States and Britain and from the previous US administration. I have never heard it questioned that there were weapons of mass destruction. I have never heard any contrary evidence than the basis on which the president operated and on which President Clinton almost went to war in 1998. Q: If the administration is so sure that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, why did (US Secretary of State) Colin Powell then present information on a nuclear connection with Nigeria in the Security Council and other information that was proven by the weapons inspectors to be false? Kissinger: It was certainly the honest opinion of Colin Powell, who is a man of great character. Q: Then the mistake lies with the intelligence people. Kissinger: I do not accept your premise. Q: Do you think that the United States is right to send its own weapons inspectors to Iraq? Kissinger: After a war fought over the possession of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq, it is inevitable that the United States would start looking for these weapons. This sort of question implies some sort of moral wrong by America. Q: What will happen if the US inspectors cannot find anything, either? Kissinger: If they do not find anything, one has to analyze what mistakes were made. But I do not think this will happen. In any event, one should not question the good faith of the people who made the decisions. Since you imply that UN inspectors should be used, what is the purpose for using a method designed to deal with Saddam Hussein?

Q: They can gain information from Iraqi scientists and other experts now. Kissinger: So can the American search teams. The UN inspection teams were created to supervise whether Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction. With him gone, what conceivable functions do they have? Explain to me: Why does one now engage in these needling exercises, which cannot produce any conceivable results other than to establish some kind of moral divide? Q: Because the other countries want to be heard. Kissinger: There are better means to be heard, and other countries have found theirs. Germany and France are taking a special position. Q: And Russia? Kissinger: Don't you think it is an odd combination: Germany, Russia and France, six months after NATO expansion? It will not last as a permanent weapon aimed at America. Q: The United States won the war against Iraq, will it win peace? Kissinger: Peace is a relative term. It will certainly improve on the situation under Saddam. It will be very difficult, and it would be easier with better Atlantic relations. Q: What will be the most difficult issues? Kissinger: To get stability, to get a government that produces order and at the same time gives responsibility to the majority of the population. Given the different nationalities and religions, this is difficult to achieve.

Q: Who should be in charge of the interim government and the one thereafter? US soldiers, (Ahmad) Chalabi ... ? Kissinger: Whoever it is has to be able to demonstrate that he can gain public support. Chalabi can be one of the contenders. But I think the nature of the leader of Iraq can only crystallize after a political process has started. In 1945, I was a US soldier in the occupation of Germany, but I had never heard of (Konrad) Adenauer. And I never saw Adenauer's name mentioned in 1945 in the context of who would be head of state. Q: In Germany there weren't so many different ethnic and religious groups. Kissinger: I don't think the occupation in Germany can be compared with the situation in Iraq. It was an entirely different problem. Q: There is substantial opposition against a military interim government. Kissinger: One cannot tell what the mood is because, at this point, the people who are organized best are likely to attract the most attention. But I would not have been surprised if there were opposition to the United States. One cannot maintain a military government in Islamic countries for an indefinite period of time. Q: Is it the only possibility at the moment? Kissinger: There has to be a period of some months for order to be restored and weapons of mass destruction to be looked for. Then there has to be a period in which other countries are given the opportunity to participate in the governance of Iraq. I would start with members of the coalition, but I would not confine it to members of the coalition, so that gradually there will be some organization that provides a broader basis.

Q: What role should the United Nations play? Kissinger: Ironically, a lot of this depends on how our relationship with Europe develops. It would be fairly easy to achieve some degree of UN legitimization were the historic Atlantic partnership still intact. What makes no sense is to repeat the process which preceded the war because this would simply introduce all these debates in the middle of Iraqi reconstruction. Q: You would not work with the United Nations directly, nor its Security Council? Kissinger: So long as the allies are so divided, the Security Council process would simply repeat its divisions. I don't think this would be good for anybody. It would lead again to a potential rupture of the Western alliance. But I believe the rupture should be overcome. Q: When should the sanctions on Iraq be lifted? Immediately? Kissinger: The sanctions were imposed to oblige Iraq under Saddam to observe his undertaking after the Gulf War of 1991 to destroy his stocks of weapons of mass destruction. They were to be lifted when Saddam had carried out these obligations. Now Saddam is no longer in office. Those who govern will possess no means to build weapons of mass destruction and every incentive to destroy those which exist. What, then, is the purpose of maintaining the sanctions?

Q: Can democracy be brought from outside to a country, to the Arabic world in particular? Kissinger: There is no Muslim state that has yet produced a pluralistic democracy as we know it in the West-except Turkey, after a period of autocratic government. Part of that reason is that democracy in the West really evolved after the Reformation, after the separation of church and state, the introduction of pluralism of religion, the Enlightenment and capitalism. These conditions do not exist in the Islamic world. Therefore, the evolution of democracy in the Muslim world will be different. As a general rule, I do not believe that democracy can be imposed from the outside. But by removing a dictatorship, one can create conditions in which democracy can evolve organically. I would not argue that the United States has an obligation or a necessity to overthrow every government with which it disagrees by force. Q: What does this mean for Syria? There is a lot of pressure now on it. Kissinger: The American problem with Syria is not regime change but terrorist organizations on Syrian soil and of Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, there is room for a Syrian peace process. It is in that context that one should talk about Syrian-American relations and not as a continuation of the war in Iraq. Q: Should Syria be included in the "road map" that will be presented soon? Kissinger: Actually, the Syrian-Israeli peace negotiations do not need a road map; they were very close to success at one point. They need a solution to riparian rights in the Sea of Galilee and to the terrorist problem from Lebanese soil. Intellectually the Syrian-Israeli negotiations seem to be simpler than the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.

Q: Would not Syria have to give up its influence on Lebanon and Hezbollah? Kissinger: Syria would have to give up its influence on Hezbollah and would probably have to reduce its military influence in Lebanon, but geography is a fact of life also, as is the change in Iraq. Syria will always have some influence in Lebanon. Q: Do you think that in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict the current situation is similar to the one after Gulf War I? Will it be the start of a new peace process as in Madrid and Oslo almost 10 years ago? Kissinger: It is different now. A peace process between Israel and the Palestinians can and will start. Both sides have suffered enough from the intifada to provide an incentive for negotiations. The major problem is how one gets it started. In the past, I had preferred more limited steps than comprehensive schemes like the road map. But I do not want to prejudge this before the talks have even started. Q: There is a lot of distrust against the United States in the Arab world. How can this be changed? Kissinger: There is certainly. It can be changed only by performance, not rhetoric. But on the whole, the Arab world was calmer than the media in Germany and France. Q: Are you sure? Kissinger: (laughing) It is useless to debate this. We are now at a point where the administration can put forward its view of a positive evolution in various parts of the world. I think there is a great opportunity. I would prefer to do this in dialogue with traditional friends. But this also requires that our friends show some understanding for the American psychology and American convictions and some confidence in American purposes.

Q: In your foreign policy, one of the main goals was to have "stable countries" and not necessarily democratized countries. Kissinger: A gross oversimplification. There are limits to what any one country can do in changing the world. Especially, it should be modest in attempting to intervene in the domestic situations of other countries. There are extreme situations in which we should. I supported the intervention in Bosnia, for example. And I would have supported intervention in Rwanda. On the other hand, there cannot be real progress without stability. The more order is destroyed, the more force will have to be used in re-establishing some order. I do not see stability and progress as standing opposed to each other, but rather as conditions to one another. One thing is sure: We are now in a period of extraordinary global change. Q: Does this mean a new world order? Kissinger: At any point in time, there is an international system that represents a kind of world order. The world is now in the process of building a new world order which grows from the collapse of communism, the weapons of mass destruction, the privatization of foreign policy, the globalization of the economy and the gap between economic and political globalization. These are all huge problems. And it has never happened before that foreign policy had to be conducted on a global basis. It has also never happened before that the public could observe everything as it happens. You have a condition in which the need for long-range thinking is enormous, and the capacity for long-range thinking has been limited by the pressures of domestic politics and the nature of modern communication.

Q: What do you mean by privatization of foreign policy? Kissinger: The terrorist groups are essentially private groups and not governmental groups. They are financed by existing states, but their purposes are not identical to those of states. Some of the existing principles of foreign policy cannot apply to them. Deterrence does not work with groups that have nothing to defend. Diplomacy does not work with groups that do not want to compromise. Therefore, the principles of the Westphalian system cannot work, when you have either private groups conducting a revolutionary foreign policy or when you have a threat of a magnitude in which you cannot wait for the threat to become real. You have to act on the assessment of the threat. That's a problem the world will face with North Korea and almost certainly with other states. Q: How does the new world order affect U.S. foreign policy? Kissinger: We will without doubt, as every other country, undergo significant debates on foreign policy in the next five years. In Europe, especially in Germany and France, there is a view that America had a sort of an illegitimate government, that this is a government with which you can't communicate. That is wrong. There has to be a serious dialogue with the people who actually make American foreign policy, which happens to be the president.

Q: Started by Germany and France? Kissinger: After what has happened, I think it would help, if the first effort-or at least a symbolic effort - were made by Germany and France. But the United States should respond constructively and magnanimously. The alliance will fall apart unless an effort is made. The Western world, which has had great achievement in civilization, has had one organic failure. It has destroyed itself through its internal rivalries. The question is: Can the Western civilization find some common definition of the world it finds itself in and of the opportunities and dangers it must deal with? Q: And the answer is? Kissinger: On the basis of recent performance, you can make a negative case. I would hate to accept that. I hope that we can have a dialogue on issues like proliferation, globalization, terrorism. We have to come to common positions. We won't be identical at all times. I was extremely distressed by what happened in recent months. My generation believed in the Atlantic world. Now it threatens to fall apart. Now much of European policy defines itself by creating structures to challenge the United States.

Q: Do the problems relate only to communication or is it also philosophy? Kissinger: It is partly philosophy. There has been, above all, too much playing to short-term opinion. The more one now emphasizes the distinctive views of Germany and America, the more difficult one will find it to find the way back to a constructive relationship. Both sides have to decide whether 50 years of close association should be thrown away and whether one should focus on demonstrating the faults of the other side. I would hope that we will find a basis for a more conciliatory dialogue, without (ital) Rechthaberei (unital) (dogmatism) on either side. Q: What role does Russia play in all this? Kissinger: Russia should be welcomed as a constructive partner in the international system. I would prefer if the traditional Atlantic group came to some understanding and then have Russia join it. The worst thing to do is to encourage Russia to try to play balance-of-power politics within the Western world, because this may reawaken traditional Russian nationalism that used to be a disaster for Russia, too. It's better for Russia to join existing structures than for it to try to force its way into the gaps left between the existing institutions. Q: The European Union will soon have a foreign minister. Will this be the single phone number you always wanted to have? Kissinger: From a technical viewpoint, yes. But it will depend on the content of this European foreign policy.

From Manila Times, Philippines, by Henry Kissinger, 9 May 2003

E-Gov Initiatives Mimic Private Sector

As a sign of the growing approximation of the public and private sectors, Accenture has recorded a visible increase over the past few years in customer-focused initiatives (targeting both citizens and businesses) by e-government programs. …In fact, in its latest annual "eGovernment Leadership" report, subtitled "Engaging the Customer," Accenture found that improving customer satisfaction with online government services is the leading factor driving the initiatives, closely followed by customer demands for new or better services. The consulting firm reached these conclusions by surveying 143 senior central government executives in 15 countries (Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, the UK and the US).

From eMarketer, NY, by Noah Elkin, 14 May 2003